19 Ways to Lose Top-Performing Salespeople

Relax, this is not a tutorial on how to lose salespeople, good or bad. It’s hard enough finding top-performing salespeople in the first place, so why would anyone want to lose them? The answer, of course, is that you don’t, but there are several things that you do or don’t do that will drive your top performers out the door.

What about your other salespeople, the less-than-top performers? They’re likely to stay put simply because they’re not top performers and finding another job isn’t as easy.

Good salespeople move around because they can. The less-than-good salespeople hang tight because it’s prudent to do so. The not-so-good salespeople take root, and you have to dig them out before they’ll migrate.

The Top 19 Retention Sins

In their eBook  “Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top-Performing Sales People, Fast,” Eliot Burdett and Brent Thompson of Peak Sales Recruiting Inc have identified the most common mistakes, issues, and omissions that cause peak performers to leave an organization. You might consider buying a copy. It’s a good read if you’re considering using a recruiting professional.

As you read down through this list of 19 retention sins, check off those that your company might be guilty of so that you can plug the holes in your sales dike.

  • Frequent changes to the commission plan.
  • A reduction in commission rate if the salesperson produces big sales and big commissions.
  • Penalizing the sales team for post sales delivery.
  • Refusal to compensate the salesperson on certain types of sales that generate desirable profits for the company.
  • Failure to support them with proactive product management, strong product development, professional delivery and effective support.
  • Investing nothing in marketing and brand recognition.
  • Making them spend a lot of time completing reports and doing other non-selling activities.
  • Hiring sub-par salespeople and keeping poor performers on board.
  • Stepping in to take over accounts which salespeople have worked hard to acquire and develop.
  • Focusing on hours and activities instead of results.
  • Forgetting to be a cheerleader to get everyone over their daily rejections.
  • Requiring salespeople to make cheap travel arrangements which waste valuable selling time.
  • Not providing best practices and resources such as objection handling scripts and reference material.
  • Asking the salespeople to lie to customers and prospects in order to close more business.
  • Avoiding coaching and constructively helping the salespeople to be bigger producers.
  • Refusing to leave your office and visit customers.
  • Paying commissions late.
  • Taking credit for closing deals the salesperson closed.
  • Implying that selling is the easy part of the company’s success.

Building the Best Environment

While the prime intention of this list is to help you uncover potential problems within your organization, it can have a more important use as well. It can be used as a checklist to build an internal environment that not only keeps your top salespeople happy but gets others to aspire to join that lofty rank.

Building the Best Team

Just like having a great stadium to play in doesn’t guarantee a winning team, creating an open and supportive environment for your salespeople, while important, is only one part of the equation. The players are the key.

Sports teams are constantly assessing their players and fine-tuning their line-up. Unfortunately for us, we can’t send a poor-performing salesperson off to the farm team for some seasoning or draft a top performer from one of our competitors as they do in hockey. We have to make do with what we’ve got.

This means that we’ve always got to be on the lookout for “free agents,” as well as take care in our hiring process to ensure we’re strengthening our line-up.

Because of the nature of my business, I agree with Burdett’s and Thompson’s sin #8. Hiring sub-par salespeople and keeping poor performers on board is not how you build a strong, enduring sales team.

You might consider bench-marking your existing team to see who’s who and what’s what. Bench-marking can help you find the holes that need plugging or the people that may need culling on your way to the best team you can build.

The Bottom Line

Build an environment where top performers can thrive and then find top performers to put into that environment. Help your good salespeople become better and assist the bottom 10 percent to find a position more in keeping with their talents.