How to keep the best sales staff in your small business

Retaining the best sales staff and keeping them motivated is crucial to your business’ existing and future success, says Paul Turton.

Sales are an essential cornerstone to any company. The relationships the sales team builds with current or potential clients and customers can create the foundation of your company. Not just purely in terms of individual sales made but also in terms of reputation. Sales staff are often the first point of contact for external or inbound calls and they can heavily impact a business’ overall reputation and growth. This means retaining the best sales staff and keeping them motivated is crucial to your business’ existing and future success.

There are many different ways that you can keep hold of the best sales people and avoid making your employees feel like just another stat in the corporate machine. From a strong pay plan to well executed individual recognition to team incentives like trips, there are lots of ways to motivate your sales department. Here are my top five tips for retaining members of a sales department.

Take time to recruit the right sales staff

This may sound obvious, but ensuring you have the right people in your sales department from the get go will help you keep the best people in the long run. It’s important that anyone in a position to sell your products or services to new clients is fully behind your business goals and buys into your company ethos. Although recruitment consultants can be helpful in some cases, don’t rely too heavily on them as they won’t know your company as intimately as you do. Utilising existing networks and social media channels is a great way to find like-minded people who will bring real value to your business.

Another important aspect to remember is your current team composition. Sales teams work closely together, collaborating on big projects and best practices for selling the business in the best light. When hiring new employees, think of what personalities you already have and how new people will blend with the current team. There needs to be the right balance of experience, personalities and knowledge within the team for it to be a success.

Ensure you have the right level of ‘healthy’ churn

There’s a distinction to be made between healthy and unhealthy rates of churn or turnover of staff. Over 40 per cent of churn is bad because it creates continuity and often performance issues. For customers, they don’t know who is looking after their services or who to go to when they have a problem. This often means minor issues get escalated to senior management unnecessarily. However, under 20 per cent churn means that employees could be too comfortable and the team is not dynamic or driven enough. Things might need shaking up if ideas seem stale or processes stay the same for years regardless of advancements in technology.

Tackling unhealthy levels of churn can seem overwhelming at the beginning. Always try to take a step back and understand why it is happening. Is it the boss not valuing or recognising the efforts made by staff? Is it a struggling market where the targets and the market don’t match up? It could be a case that the good sales people are saying goodbye whilst the people that aren’t so good stay out of fear. Understanding the underlying reasons as to the levels of unhealthy churn is the best place to start.

Motivate your team

Again this might sound obvious, but it’s all too easy for sales teams to become disengaged. In a competitive department such as sales, keeping consistent, open and fair communication running for the whole team throughout the year will all aid good morale. Recognition in the form of a thank you or simple well-chosen gift for a great sales campaign or closing a new customer win will always go down well, especially if you take the time to write in person and physically send to a home address.

A good clear sales commission scheme is also imperative. It’s very important though that you are consistent and stick to a payment plan and don’t move the goal posts as this will lead to employee frustration. If an employee has earned their financial reward, then you should always be prepared to pay it.

Knowing when to apply the pressure and when to ease off is also crucial to keeping your team motivated. If you have a seasonal business, ease off during the non-essential times. That way when you do apply the pressure there will be a greater impact made by a motivated and ready team.

First impressions count

How you induct someone into the company is crucial. If they are instantly made to feel part of the team and valued, then there is a much stronger chance of them remaining as an employee for a long time.

It’s pivotal that you are fully prepared from day one, and this includes having everything already set up for them such as technology and access to essential documents. This will naturally show the standard you expect and make them up their game from the moment they start and be eager to make their stamp on the business.

Build your team roadmap

To really make sure you keep the best sales staff in your company, you need to understand each individual’s aspirations and what they want to achieve out of working for you. Continually reviewing the roadmap will not only help them see how they can achieve their goals, it will help them see their improvements and overall progression.

Showing how a personal roadmap fits within the wider overall strategic plan of the business will demonstrate that you see them as an integral part of future growth. This will help to keep them motivated as they will see themselves as a key driver of the business and adding real value.

Retaining the best people within your sales team is essential for a business’ success. There are many ways you can ensure that top staff stay with your company for a long time; from hiring the right people at the start to providing tangible incentives to reward and recognise staff for great work. Making sure you have the best people in your sales department will help your business grow immeasurably.

Paul Turton is sales and customer service director at Powwownow.

Further reading on sales staff

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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