There they are every day bringing in the deals. They’re always prospecting, meeting clients, networking, making suggestions about how to do things even better and they never discount unnecessarily. Best of all your clients are happy. They’re happy with your offering, happy with your service, happy with the sales support they get and your business is profitable.
Sounds magnificent doesn’t it? Your top sales performer(s) require(s) very little work. They self manage, are resilient and are such a breeze to work with. They’re low maintenance and are not temperamental like those 600lb sales gorillas. You couldn’t be happier, right?
Well this is what most business owners or sales managers are thinking when they get a great sales performer. ‘So easy’ they say, ‘I wish all my sales people where like this’. And yes, we would love all our sales people to be self motivated, self disciplined, engaging people who cared as much about our businesses as we do while bringing in fantastic, sustainable sales results.
The temptation is to leave them alone and say ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’. Many business leaders and sales managers take this approach. However, it’s precisely the wrong approach to take with top sales performers.
Let’s look at how much would it cost you to keep a top sales performer versus how much you would lose if they left your business.
Research continues to show that top sales performers love to learn and grow. The money is good but it is not the overriding factor. Instead they seek out opportunities to advance their skills, knowledge and mindset on a regular basis – they want to be the best. They strive for Mastery. The number one quality distinguishing top sales performers from their colleagues is their desire to engage in self-appraisal & continuous learning.
Here is what you are likely to see top sales performers doing on a regular basis besides selling:
- Asking for feedback on their own performance and the degree to which they have met client expectations.
- Collaborating with colleagues and not putting competitiveness in the way of business success.
- Recognising and acting on the need for continuous self learning and development.
- Appraising their own performance and competencies and initiates development activities without prompting.
These activities are often done without the support of management. Top performers create their own self development journeys and go outside to get the coaching, mentoring and nourishment they need.
This is admirable on the part of the sales person and it seems, great for the business leader/owner or sales manager. However, businesses are putting themselves at a huge disadvantage if this equation remains one-sided.
Because money isn’t enough. We might think that all we need to do is throw more money at top sales performers. Yes they deserve to earn top dollar but it’s more than that.
We need to take an interest their overall development. Provide them with opportunities to further develop their knowledge, skills and mindset. Give them opportunities. These can be to work with us on the business, take a mentoring or coaching role in our sales team, work on special projects, develop new markets or become our business’ key spokesperson. We can position our top performers as a champion an important aspect of our business or simply give them one-on-one time with us or a nominated coach who takes a particular interest in their development helping them to be even more effective.
The small investment of our time and attention to develop our sales superstars is far outweighed by their contribution to our business. Why risk it by ignoring the very people who make us a success? It seems logical but organizations make this mistake time and time again.
I hear so many stories from top sales performers who just up and leave organisations because they feel they were taken for granted. Here are some stories from top sales performers who have left companies because their requests for development were ignored:
- “I wasn’t listened to. No interest was taken in me and my development. I had no respect as a professional business person. Management didn’t care about my professional development and dismissed me as only being ‘a salesperson’ because I did not have a business degree. They were only interested in me because I could bring in the deals. I tried to explain that it wasn’t only about the money and that I wanted more challenges to help the business grow. I had great ideas and wanted to step up. Instead they just told me to keep on selling and stay in my box. I felt ignored and taken for granted. I became tired, bored, and disillusioned with management and so I left. They went into free fall when I resigned and since leaving the business they keep coming back to me offering more money. They just don’t get it do they?’
- ‘My repeated requests to my manager for coaching and training were dismissed as too costly. I went outside to get the development I craved. My manager just wasn’t interested in giving me any of his time to coach me and certainly wasn’t interested in paying any money for my development. So I paid $3,000 of my own money for 6 one-on-one sales coaching sessions and they really helped. The benefits of one-on-one sales coaching were enormous. I achieved 130% of my budget in my first year and made the annual incentive trip overseas. My manager tried to claim the credit for my success. Needless to say into my second year nothing changed on the management front so after a further 9 months in solitude I left the company to pursue a career where personal development was valued.’
The cost of losing a top sales performer is enormous and it’s not until they are gone that most businesses realises its mistake. Are you at risk of losing someone who is vital to your business?
Before it’s too late ask your top sales people:
What they want by way of personal and professional development. Where would they like to take their careers? How would they like to contribute to the business? What ideas do they have about how we could be better?
Nourish these people with your interest in their ongoing development and show them that you genuinely care about their contribution and growth in your business – not just every now and again but continuously. If you make this a priority you will retain these top sales people and benefit. Make it a priority to do something to support them and let them know you really value and appreciate their contribution.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au