So many companies publicly state, “people are our most important asset.” If you transparently discuss this with most salespeople, you’ll quickly learn they don’t believe it. The harsh reality is there has been an increasing lack of trust, as employees and salespeople see themselves as disposable assets. A seismic shift has occurred within the cultural norm of employee-employer relationships and it demands a different response from Sales Leaders in order to maintain performance continuity.
Now, more than ever, Sales Leaders need to SHOW their salespeople how important and valuable they are, and how willing they are to mentor them on their path to success. INC. Magazine conducted a recent study of 25,000 employees, between January and October of 2018, which revealed the two most frequently mentioned reasons for leaving their job was: 1) poor management and 2) lack of recognition. Employees who rated their management poorly were likely to have interviewed for a job in the last three months. Simply put, you literally can’t afford this. The INC. article summarized the price paid for the loss is 33% of the person’s salary to a recruiter!
This research should horrify anyone in a Sales Leadership role. Retention of salespeople is a critical priority. On average, it takes a new hire 9-12 months to replace the productivity of a tenured sales performer. The problem is amplified when you won’t know for several months how effective a new hire will be. There is also great potential within your entire team that can be unlocked by using a new approach to lead them.
Reid Hoffman, a Co-founder of LinkedIn, along with two fellow entrepreneurs, understood this challenge and authored a book titled, “The Alliance.” They recognized the difficulty of procuring top talent and retaining it in Silicon Valley. They correctly identified the “new normal” with employment relationships as evolving past the transactional and into a series of mutually beneficial engagements.
Essentially, employees sign up for a “tour of duty” with the employer over a specified time. This approach helps build trust and deepens the relationship incrementally. An annual performance review isn’t an effective communications vehicle within a majority of companies. It’s regarded as an event that manages by looking in the rear-view mirror. It is up to Sales Leadership to create a forward planning approach with regular check-ins along the way.
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
It really isn’t difficult, but you need to ask yourself an important question. “Do I REALLY know my people?” IF your salespeople were your clients, would you treat them differently? In turn, questions should be asked of every one of your people. You’ve already made a significant investment in each of these assets and now you need to protect that, while working to increase value. The challenge is being compounded by younger generations entering the workforce with different points of view and expectations. The key is to unlock their hidden talent and gifts, while you work to eliminate their obstacles.
Important questions to ask each of your people:
- Why did you originally join the company?
- What is your passion?
- What are your three most important goals and aspirations?
- How can we leverage your strengths more?
- What areas would you like to develop?
- What challenges can I help remove for you?
- What skills would you like to develop?
This isn’t a questionnaire or survey. This is a heart-to-heart, transparent discussion built on genuine interest, trust, and caring. It is a dialogue you embrace to reach the very core of the person you are speaking with. It is also mutual. This is about the Sales Leader and the salesperson developing a deep understanding and agreeing to key areas of focus and desired outcomes.
The saying, “if you take care of your people, they will take care of your business,” has never been more relevant. Remember, if a relationship isn’t growing, it’s dying. It’s time to embrace a new way of leading your people by engendering trust and unlocking potential and value.
Personal Challenge: Create a list of questions to include in your discussions to get to know your people. Prioritize with whom you will speak to first. Start with the opinion leaders others look up to on your team. Schedule your first discussion this week and help them create actionable steps. Don’t forget to document what you learned. Remember – your goal is to have deep, meaningful conversation.