December 7, 2017

Beverly James photo

Losing a sales rep is rarely good news. We’re in a relationship business, so when a well-liked salesperson leaves, it can lead to higher-than-normal attrition, and ultimately affect the bottom line.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled “How to Reduce the Costs of Salesperson Turnover” identifies three phases that surround a departure as well as common-sense steps you can take to minimize potential losses. The phases are:

  1. Withdrawal period
  2. Vacancy period
  3. Hiring/orientation period

Keep watch for withdrawal.

When someone is getting ready to move on they are often engaged in job-search activities. This is “withdrawal” and it’s obviously going to impact their effectiveness. Watch for fluctuations in performance, taking time off one day at a time, often mid-week; as well as a decrease in call quality and less phone time in order to spend more time online looking for a new job.

The first line of defense is the sales manager who is in the best position to see what is going on. Have a talk with the person and see if you can do anything to prevent their departure. It could be that small adjustments can be made to accommodate their change in needs. If it appears a preparation for departure may be happening despite your best efforts, you may want to steer call-in leads to others less likely to leave. 

Prepare for a vacancy before it happens.

If the person does leave, there are two ways to reduce the chance of clients also departing during a vacancy period.

  1. Have an aggressive job search process. This should be in place at all times. Try to make sure the amount of time the station’s accounts are without a permanent rep is at a minimum.  
  2. Have a sales manager or another rep cover key clients. There is also the chance you will want to reward existing salespeople with a new account, which means there will be virtually no time when that account is hanging in the wind.

Be ready with your welcome.

It takes time to get a new rep up to speed during a hiring/orientation period. It’s important to have a formalized process for new salespeople. Again, this should not be something you invent in emergency mode, but have it ready before it’s needed. The sales manager is the front line in training, orienting, and building team cohesion.  

Consider this: While hiring an experienced person may cost you more, the ramp-up time will be less and is often worth the investment.  

Prevention is always the best medicine.

On an ongoing basis, make sure that the client has more than one connection with the station. While it’s not practical to have the sales manager meet with every client that a sales rep leaves behind, a simple phone call or email sent once or twice a year thanking that client for their support goes a long way. So few people say thank you these days!  

Also, make sure that CRMs are consistently up-to-date. You don’t want all that institutional knowledge walking out the door with the rep.

Lastly, always be in recruitment mode. Good reps will leave. But smart managers have a plan in place for the next, even better rep!  

Beverly James photo