Retain Your Best Salespeople: 9 Strategies That Work

Retaining salespeople should be at the top of a sales manager’s priority list.

While some turnover is inevitable, top sales managers do everything they can to minimize voluntary loss of sales reps.

Employee turnover is not only costly to an organization, but time consuming. Consider the resources spent locating, interviewing and onboarding good salespeople. It’s massive!

And then you add in sales that are lost by the departure of a top sales rep. At that point, the costs associated with a lost sales rep make you weep.

So make a commitment to keeping your sales team.

Here are 9 strategies that go a long way to ensuring your team sticks around for years to come.


retain salespeople

Provide A Memorable First Day

The hiring process doesn’t end with a letter of acceptance. Salespeople form strong opinions about their new organization on the first day. Within the first few hours of starting at the new role they’ll probably have an idea whether they plan to stay with the organization over the long term.

To ensure that their experience is memorable, be prepared for their arrival.

Ensure that the following are available: building access cards, parking cards, supplies needed, and a clean workspace.

Think of ways to go the extra mile to make them feel welcome. For example:

  • Take them out to lunch – perhaps as a team
  • Have a welcome card signed by the staff waiting for them on their desk
  • Pre-print business cards and a nameplate

The first day should clearly spell out the start of a well planned onboarding process.

Invest In Onboarding

The case for onboarding is crystal clear. A strong, well structured onboarding program is a small investment that pays huge dividends for new sales reps. 

Not convinced? Research from UrbanBound might change your mind. They found that as much as 20% of staff turnover happens in the first 45 days and 25% of new employees are gone within the first year. That’s a MASSIVE cost, and it drives home the importance of a developing a strong onboarding plan.

Perhaps most importantly, strong onboarding results in 50% – 54% greater productivity for new hires.

Effective onboarding also translates into long term benefits, too. Companies that use a standardized onboarding program achieve 50% better new hire retention.

Other notable onboarding stats include:

  • 77% of new hires who hit their first performance milestone had formal onboarding training.
  • 35% of companies have NO onboarding program, at all.
  • In the US & UK, over $37B is wasted on unproductive employees that don’t understand their job.
  • Companies with an extensive onboarding process accelerate new hire proficiency by 34%.

So take a moment to review your in-house onboarding plan. You’ll be glad you did! Sales reps want to succeed as much as you want them to. And initial training is the way to make that happen.

Encourage Autonomy

Every manager understands the impulse to micro-manage. But it’s not doing you any favors.

Here’s the thing. Giving your workers lots of freedom to decide how they do their jobs actually makes them happier and more satisfied.

Research by Marylène Gagné and Devasheesh Bhave from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business backs this up. Their work found that workers who believe they are free to make choices about their work are consistently happier and more motivated.

Even better, being accountable for their work also makes them more productive.

The opposite is true, too. Employees who are closely monitored, or less able to control their work have higher stress levels. And their productivity drops.

So instead of spying and micro-managing, give your salespeople the coaching and support they need to make good decisions.

This approach to work is key for retaining your best salespeople. In fact, many salespeople’s response to autonomous work is even stronger than increased financial incentives.

Commit To Continuous Training

A common complaint among sales talent is a lack of training required to perform well.

Salespeople are competitive by nature. And they want access to the tools, training, and resources to propel themselves to the next level in their career.

Some companies make a significant investment in marketing or lead prospecting services. But they don’t give their sales reps the skills or knowledge they need to close deals. This makes no sense!

Start by developing a comprehensive onboarding plan that will get your new hire up to speed quickly and comprehensively.

Then make a commitment to continuous training. The training should reinforce the material learned during onboarding. And also provide opportunities for ongoing improvement.

Note, just providing ACCESS to training isn’t enough. Sales reps only improve when they actually take advantage of the resources provided. Make ongoing courses a required KPI. In a very short time you’ll have a team that is the best in the business.

And individual sales reps will feel like you’re providing continuous opportunities to improve.

Define The Mission

We spend our lives at work. Because of that, work has to be more than just a paycheck.

Work has to matter.

For work to matter, people need to contribute to something bigger than themselves. It could be something small like helping employees feed their families. Or something massive like solving world hunger.

For salespeople, the mission is very often to solve problems. Clients have real issues that keep them awake at night. And salespeople take that pain away in the form of solutions.

But no matter what the mission is, salespeople need to know they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.

If work has meaning your salespeople are more likely to stay at your organization.

So explore your company mission. And make your salespeople understand the role they play in bringing it to fruition.

Catch Them Being Successful

Practice the habit of public recognition.

Salespeople work very hard to generate revenue for the company. And very often they feel their efforts aren’t being recognized.

Which is odd – public recognition costs nothing, and it only takes a few moments.

Review what information your organization tracks as KPIs. If you focus on inputs (rather than revenue generated) then it’s very easy to find ways to cheer.

Jenny did 220 calls this month – her personal best!


“John sent out 7 proposals this month – a new company record!

Consider using a public dashboard that publicly displays everyone’s input statistics. It’ll motivate everyone to do better.

And sales managers will have no problem ‘catching’ people performing their best.

Establish A Career Path For Advancement

Many salespeople are content to work in sales for the entirety of their career.

Afterall, the better they get, the more money they make. And no one ever lost their job for bringing in too much revenue.

But sales reps are competitive. And they want to feel like they are achieving things in their career.

So if you want to keep their hard-won experience at the company you’ll need to establish a path for advancement.

Without a career path, many of your top talents will disappear over time. So chart a series of roles and responsibilities that your team can grow into over time.

For example, younger staff with limited experience can start off doing SDR tasks like cold email lead generation. Over time they can adopt additional responsibilities and become an Account Executive.

Every new sales role should come with a higher level of responsibility, training, and compensation. Doing this will keep your team focused on performing at their current level. While giving them a meaningful career path going forwards.

Reward Longevity

It’s not easy to structure, but look for meaningful ways to reward longevity. The keyword in that sentence is ‘meaningful’.

Many companies reward staff who remained for more than (ie) 5 years with a small bonus. For example, a $100 gift certificate or some other trivial reward.

Unfortunately, no one is going to stay at your company for a $100 gift card. It’s a nice thank you, but it doesn’t accomplish very much, either.

Instead, explore compensation structures that kick in after five years. For example, a salary multiplier that kicks in after a certain number of years have passed. Or stock options that vest at regular annual intervals.

The more your sales team feels like their compensation is partially related to their longevity, the more likely they are to hit five or ten year milestones.

Set Achievable KPIs

The comic below is based on a true story. And it’s one that’s replicated in sales teams all over the world.

A friend of mine put in 16 hour days for a year to achieve his annual KPI. And it worked! He not only surpassed his targets, he out-sold the rest of the team combined! He single-handedly generated two-thirds of his division’s revenue.

Three guesses how he was rewarded.

Yup, his boss increased his KPI by 100%.

sales productivity

Unfortunately this sort of thing happens way too often.

In my friend’s case he was completely deflated. He scaled his work hours back to regular business hours. And immediately started looking for work at competitor companies. Given his recent successes, it didn’t take him long to find a new role.

Establish Compensation Consistency

There’s one really, really easy way to make sure your salespeople quit.

Mess with their compensation.

Compensation is a promise from the company to the salesperson. And no one likes it when promises are broken, or otherwise renegotiated.

If the company needs to reconfigure the compensation model you must get your salespeople to buy into the changes before they take effect.

If you don’t they’ll feel like you’re stealing from them. And they’ll leave – guaranteed.

If changes need to happen give the salespeople plenty of time to adjust. A timeframe of 18 months before the changes take effect isn’t unreasonable.

It gives them time to adjust to the idea. And you have time to address concerns that inevitably arise.

Retain Your Sales Reps

The cost of losing top sales people is too high to ignore. You could potentially lose out on existing deals in the pipeline. And face the prospect of lower future revenue.

If your sales rep is a top performer then their departure could be a strategic risk to your business.

And the cost of hiring and training new salespeople is exorbitant – it’s FAR easier to keep the existing team happy.

With this in mind, plan your sales rep’s journey within your organization. Give them opportunities and resources to grow their career in your company. And find the relationships and meaning they are looking for in their career.

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.

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