Average Rating: 5.0
Your rating: none

How to retain salespeople

How to retain salespeople

by Troy Harrison

In today’s tight hiring market, it’s more important than ever to hold on to your good salespeople. Make no mistake – if you have performing salespeople, other companies, inside and outside of your industry, would love to have them working for them. This means that you should never get complacent about your sales staffing.

The key to retaining salespeople is the same as the key to retaining your customers. It’s relationships. We spend incredible amounts of energy building, growing and maintaining relationships with our customers. How much time do you spend building, growing and maintaining relationships with your salespeople? I can hear it now – “Troy, I don’t want to get too close to my salespeople. If I do, I can’t manage them and hold them accountable!” Nonsense. A proper business relationship does not negate accountability; in fact, it can enhance it. A salesperson who feels a relationship – a bond – with his or her manager and company is a salesperson who is not vulnerable to being hired away at a moment’s notice. And after all, if you’re forming relationships with your customers, why wouldn’t you also form relationships with the people in charge of those customers?

Relationship building with your salespeople isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require a mindset shift on the part of the sales manager. First of all, you have to get out of the mindset that “all salespeople are motivated by money.” Most are, but for many it’s not a primary motivator. There are many other factors besides money that go into job satisfaction for salespeople. If you have 10 salespeople on your sales team, you may have 10 different primary motivators. This means that you have to individualize your management style. If you have those 10 salespeople, you might have to be 10 different sales managers. Sound difficult? It’s not; you’ve probably already done it with your customer base. And, like your customers, you can apply sales techniques to this facet of management.

First, you must do a good discovery with your salespeople. Think about the types of questions that you ask your customers to get to know them. You discover their needs, their wants, their primary motivators and their definition of success for a purchase and business relationship (and if you’re not asking your customers those questions on an ongoing basis, you had better get started). You should do the same with your salespeople.

How do they like to live? What is important to them in terms of life goals, and how does their career play into it? What makes them feel like they have done their job well? What is their definition of a successful work experience? Some might recoil because this seems “touchy-feely” with their salespeople, but it’s definitely easier than constantly restaffing your sales team due to high turnover.

Of course, once you know what their needs are, you must work to solve their needs through their job. This can take many forms – but working to build a career path for your salespeople that addresses what they need is one of the most important aspects. Again, this is where individualization of your management style comes into play.

On one very successful sales team that I managed, I had one veteran salesperson who simply wanted to be looked up to as a senior statesman of the company. Another wanted my job (he wanted to succeed me as manager when I was promoted). Yet another wanted to achieve President’s Club, and knew that his natural talents were marginal for doing it. Managing these three people – all of whom were eventually multiple President’s Club winners – required three very different management styles. For the “senior statesman,” I gave him opportunities to present at all-company meetings and let him help with orientation of new employees. For the “manager in waiting,” I groomed him to take over my responsibilities, and even enlisted him in coaching and development of other salespeople. For the one with marginal talents, I coached him to maximize his talents and then worked with him on time utilization, since he needed to overachieve in his activity levels. Three different paths produced similar results – but cookie cutter management techniques would have likely not produced success with any of the three.

Of course, needs can change over time. Family situations can change, living arrangements can be fluid, and so forth. That’s why you need to redo your discovery from time to time, and react to changes in needs and objectives – again, just like you would with a customer.

You should also constantly work to develop their skills and capabilities. Ongoing coaching is essential to keeping salespeople fresh, successful and keeping dialogue alive. Besides, working together in the sales arena is a great way to bond with your salespeople. If you’re trying to develop them from behind your desk, you’re doing it the wrong way. Get out into the arena with them.

Structured feedback is also vital. I’m a big fan of annual performance reviews, and even semiannual reviews. Some managers think that “salespeople always know how they’re doing – that’s what numbers are for,” but I’m here to tell you that structured and planned feedback on all aspects of the job is important and appreciated – and again, builds the bond between you and your salespeople.

I constantly hear managers say, “They just left for more money.” Well, sure, that happens. However, salespeople that are happy, engaged and feel a relationship with their employers are salespeople who are much less likely to entertain competitive offers in the first place – just like happy, loyal customers seldom listen to proposals from competitive salespeople. Use the same relationship building skills on your salespeople as you would your customers, and the result will be better customer relationships through more sales longevity. In this tight hiring market, that’s time and effort well spent.

Troy HarrisonTroy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and his new book, “The Pocket Sales Manager.” He is a speaker, consultant and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call (913) 645-3603, e-mail, or visit

This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2022 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2022, Direct Business Media.


Post comment / Discuss story * Required Fields
Your name:
E-mail *:
Comment *: