The 3 Biggest Reasons Why Top Performing Salespeople Leave (And How to Lower Turnover)

Turnover. It’s one of the biggest causes of stress and frustration for employers. And if left unchecked, it can waste time, erode profits and bring company growth to a grinding halt. 

What’s concerning is the sheer number of people leaving their jobs these days. “The percentage of US employees quitting their jobs is at an all-time high,” says Gallup. Further, “67% of US employees are disengaged at work, and 51% say they’re actively looking for a new job or are open to one.”

In this post, we’ll get to the heart of why top performing salespeople leave and go over some specific steps you can take to address this problem. 

The 3 Biggest Reasons for Turnover

SiriusDecisions, a global B2B research and advisory firm performed extensive research to identify the main reasons why top performing salespeople left the companies they worked for. 

Here’s what they found:

  1. Insufficient compensation – This was the reason why 89% of salespeople left
  2. A lack of connection with leadership / Incompetence of leadership – 60 – 80% 
  3. Concerns about their company’s ability to meet market needs – 75%

Note that a certain amount of turnover is normal and shouldn’t cause any major disruptions to your business. Currently, the average turnover rate for sales organizations is hovering just under 35%. But if the number gets much higher than that, like it does for one in 10 companies with a turnover rate above 55%, it’s definitely a cause for concern and something that should be addressed right away. 

Now let’s take a closer look at these three main reasons for turnover and discuss some potential solutions. 

#1 – Insufficient Compensation

Above all else, not being paid what a rep thinks they’re worth is the number one reason why they head for greener pastures. And this is nothing new. 

Just like with nearly every other industry, those in sales are quick to jump ship if they can earn more somewhere else. This is especially true for SaaS salespeople where there’s been an explosion in the number of companies that were launched in recent years. 

So, what exactly is considered adequate pay? According to recent data from PayScale, the average salary for a salesperson in 2020 was $45,676

If you’re paying well below that, especially in a larger market, high turnover is an inevitable issue that’s going to plague your company. The solution though is quite obvious — pay your reps more so that it’s competitive with other sales organizations in your area. 

And if possible, consider offering your top performers rewards like bonuses, health benefits, and recognition awards, which collectively help boost your employee value proposition (EVP). A study by Gartner found that effectively delivering on your EVP can lower annual turnover by 69%

#2 – Leadership Issues

The second biggest culprit for high turnover is when there’s either A) a disconnect between sales reps and company leaders or B) a perceived incompetence among leaders. Liz Ryan of Forbes chimes in on this saying, “Turnover is a leadership problem. When you as a manager are told over and over again that your employees will get raises and over and over again, the raises don’t come through, you become part of the problem.”

Admittedly, this isn’t usually something that’s a quick fix and often requires a fundamental cultural shift. That said, there are some specific techniques higher ups in your company can take to become better leaders. Lolly Daskal, President and CEO of Lead From Within, offers some great insights, including:

  • Accepting criticism
  • Being open to feedback from salespeople
  • Being authentic, honest, humble, and transparent
  • Taking a “practice what you preach” approach to leadership
  • Constantly striving to improve communication skills
  • Being quick to praise reps for a job well done

#3 – Concerns About a Company Meeting Market Needs

“‘Marketplace needs’ is a marketing concept that relates to the functional or emotional needs or desires of a target market,” explains college marketing professor Neil Kokemuller. “Generally, a successful company identifies when a segment of customers is not effectively served by existing providers and develops and promotes products or services to match.”

But when a company fails to do this effectively, it can create concerns for salespeople, where they have anxieties about its long-term growth and success. And this is understandable given that nearly 400,000 startups close their doors each year. 

Couple that with the negative impact COVID-19 has had on the economy, and concerns from salespeople are definitely justified. 

By these numbers, it’s clear that companies need to have a pulse on market needs — both functional and emotional — and be constantly evolving to stay relevant. It’s also important to develop a strong unique value proposition (UVP) and offer products that give your brand a clear edge over the competition. Not only is this important for carving out a sustainable niche, it lets your salespeople know that they have job security, which reduces the likelihood of excessive turnover. 

Keeping Turnover In Check

Turnover has become a serious problem for many of today’s organizations. BambooHR found that nearly a third of people have quit a job within the first six months, and 68% of those people left within the first three months. 

While there’s no magic bullet for turnover, understanding the root causes we’ve discussed here should help you gain a better understanding of what compels top salespeople to quit. Then, implementing solutions like offering competitive pay, developing better company wide leadership, and better meeting market needs should help you get it under control.

And with the right effort and focus, you can keep your most elite salespeople around for the long haul. 

Another big part of increasing retention is improving your recruiting process. Find out how you can use HireDNA to attract and recruit better candidates using science-based sales assessments. 

HireDNA Named a Top Recruiting Company for 2020

At HireDNA, we know how important it is to work with a team you can trust. We provide a modern sales recruitment platform for growth-stage technology companies to hire and retain the right sales talent to hit their goals faster.

Clutch recently announced the top 72 highest-ranking recruiting firms on their site. This effort is part of Clutch’s Small Business Solidarity program. We are excited to announce that Clutch has listed HireDNA among the top recruiting firms for 2020.

Located in the heart of Washington, DC, Clutch is a ratings and reviews platform operating in the B2B space. Their independent team of analysts conducts interviews with the former clients of companies listed on their site. This direct feedback ensures that all of their rankings and awards are fair and transparent. 

We are also featured on The Manifest, Clutch’s sister site! The platform helps guide users through each stage of the buying process. The Manifest features shortlists of B2B service providers according to geographic location and service line as well as business survey data and how-to guides. We are excited to announce that HireDNA is among the top recruiting companies on the Manifest!

“When you are looking to expand you company’s team, recruiting firms are invaluable partners,” said Clutch Business Development Analyst Dustin Sammons, “You want to ensure that you are hiring the right person with the EQ, IQ, and technical skillset necessary to do the job right. Recruiting firms’ number one priority is making sure they find you that perfect fit.”

We are grateful for each and every one of our customers, especially those that took the time to leave us a review on Clutch! We always appreciate hearing feedback from our clients. Here’s what they had to say about working with us.

“Their team really listens to what the client is asking for and what type of candidates they want. They ask a tremendous amount of questions about the business, it’s leadership, and the role so that they have a clear and concise message with which to bring in candidates.” – Director of Sales & Marketing, Software Company

We owe so much to our clients. This award and our 4.8-star rating on Clutch were made possible by all of your support over the years.

To learn more about us, check out our profile on Clutch and read the reviews left by our customers. Ready to get started on your next project? Get in touch!

Here’s How to Develop a Winning Sales Recruiting & Selection Process

As many as 80% of salespeople fail to hit the mark, and 55% of them should actually be doing something else, according to the National Association of Sales Professionals. These numbers illustrate just how difficult it is to succeed in sales and shows that the CEOs and sales leaders responsible for hiring reps have their work cut out for them. 

But in this post, we’ll outline a definitive strategy you can use to develop a winning sales recruiting and selection process to ensure you only hire the best of the best. Let’s jump right in.  

First, Identify the Most Important Areas That Influence Success

Each company is different. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach is seldom effective. Instead, you need to start your sales recruiting campaign by pinpointing which specific areas most influence success in your business. 

In their eBook Best Practice to Recruiting the Hardest Role in the Company, SG Partners says “Best Practice Sales Team Selection process commences with a clear understanding of the criteria for success in your market. You need to identify the candidate’s experience in the 20 most important areas that will influence success.”

They then go on to list some examples of factors like:

  • Markets where your company operates
  • Your customer base
  • Competitors
  • Sales cycle
  • Method of compensation 

Screen Candidates Objectively with a Sales Assessment

Before you look at a single resume or begin interviewing, you’ll want to use a candidate sales assessment to get an objective snapshot of selling skills to determine which candidates have what it takes to thrive. 

“This unique screening process was developed exclusively to identify those salespeople that WILL be successful in specific sales environments,” explains SG Partners. “It separates out those candidates that may look like salespeople and sound like salespeople but simply won’t sell.”

There are many different tools out there, but the main one we suggest using is the sales assessment from Objective Management Group (OMG). It’s based on a massive amount of data, including over 2 million salespeople from more than 30,000 companies across 200 industries. 

And its predictive validity rate is unparalleled, with 92% of suggested candidates reaching the top half of the salesforce. This will analyze 21 sales core competencies like the will to sell, motivation, coachability, and so on to filter through your list of candidates and narrow it down to the most elite. 

Phone Screen Shortlisted Candidates

Now it’s time for the actual interviewing process to begin. For the first round, you’ll want to phone screen the candidates who successfully completed the sales assessment, possess the right skills you are looking for and match your unique selling environment. 

This should be brief at around 15 to 30 minutes and is simply meant to see how well they engage with you, as this will be a great indicator of how well they’ll engage with leads if hired. 

You’ll want to create a basic script for your phone screening to ensure all candidates get the same questions and have the same opportunities. SG Partners recommends intentionally putting candidates under pressure to see how they respond to gauge their overall effectiveness. And you’ll also want to use quantitative scoring to rate a candidate’s response to each question (e.g. a 1 to 5 rating). 

For a full rundown on how to effectively use phone screening, check out this previous post we wrote. 

Conduct Short Interviews with Top Candidates

Once you’ve narrowed down your candidate pool even more, it’s time for a round of more detailed but still relatively short interviews of around 35 minutes. Ideally, this will be done face-to-face, but given the current climate post-COVID, doing it over video conferencing software like Zoom should be sufficient, specifically if they will be selling virtually. 

“The candidate is screened on issues or concerns with their work history or suitability based on their resume and also issues that were identified through the [sales assessment],” says SG Partners. “This interview is again designed to measure the ability of the candidate to respond to challenging objections while seeking to gain control of the interview process.”

The exact questions you ask can run the gamut, but Meg Prater of HubSpot highlights 10 sales interview questions that should help get the ball rolling. You can also download our interview questionnaire for a more detailed list of behavioral style interview questions. 

Perform In-Depth Interviews on Your Top 2-3 Candidates

At this point, you should have narrowed it down to your top two or three candidates who all show great promise. You’ll then want to have highly in-depth interviews with these candidates and really dive in deep to figure out what they truly bring to the table. 

“This interview is a very extensive process that requires the candidate to take you through a structured overview of their work and experience following a clear chronological order,” writes SG Partners. “This process can take up to two hours and is designed to separate truth from fiction in relation to the past history of the candidates.”

And don’t forget about reference checking. 

Given the amount of preparation that in-depth interviews like this take, it’s crucial that you perform plenty of planning and preparation in advance. 

Hold a Final Interview for the Candidate You Want

The last step in the sales team selection process is to have a final interview, which is where you go over the formalities and get everything squared away. Here are some specific things that SG Partners suggests covering. 

From there, it’s just a matter of making an offer.

Rinse and Repeat

Rockstar salespeople don’t grow on trees. And we’ve seen time and time again that haphazard hiring practices and selecting candidates based on “a hunch” lead to unfavorable outcomes. 

While nothing is 100% foolproof, following SG Partners’ sales team selection process can promise with near certainty that you’ll find the right salespeople that fit in perfectly with your company culture. 

Once you have the formula, rinse and repeat. 

For more on how to level up your recruiting, download Best Practice to Recruiting the Hardest Role in the Company

And to learn about which mistakes to avoid, read The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams

How to Ensure You’re Hiring Based on Actual Skills Rather Than Just “Personality”

Have you ever encountered a candidate who oozed charm and charisma? Who said all of the right things? Who had the “it factor?”

People with great personalities naturally make a great first impression, and more often than not, they end up walking away with the job. In fact, personality was deemed the single-most desirable quality in an employee by 78% of hiring professionals, according to an executive survey. 

And while it’s certainly a nice trait to have, it’s important to ensure that you’re hiring based on skills rather than solely on “personality.” Here’s why. 

A Long-Standing Misconception 

SG Partners, a professional sales training and coaching company, wrote an eBook entitled The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams. In it, the first mistake they mention is evaluating “personality” rather than job skills. They talk about how many CEOs and sales leaders think that personality traits like high energy, honesty, and strong work ethic practically guarantee success. But that just isn’t the case. 

“Many consultants and distributors of pre-employment tests maintain that certain personality factors help ensure management or sales success and offer psychological theories to support that belief,” explains SG Partners. “However, solid statistical research from many objective sources shows little correlation between personality factors and any specific job factors. Producers of these tests (like the Myers-Briggs) admit that they are useful for self-awareness and training but not for hiring.”

While having a great personality can certainly help a sales rep, especially when it comes to interactions with leads and their colleagues, there’s no clear evidence that it will result in success. And on the other end of the spectrum, just because someone is shy and doesn’t have a magnetic personality doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. Geoffrey James of even talks about how introverts often make the best sales reps these days, mainly because of the growing distrust of “fast-talking, backslapping salesmen” who come across as hyper-aggressive. 

These days, many leads prefer to deal with more introverted reps because they tend to be better listeners and take a more empathetic approach. 

The Dangers of Hiring Based on Personality

And in some cases, CEOs and sales leaders can get themselves into trouble when they focus so much on personality that they overlook a candidate’s obvious lack of other skills. As humans, we can’t help but form first impressions of others. It’s how we make a baseline assessment. Jean Baur, a career coach and author of The Essential Job Interview Handbook, even says that it only takes about three seconds for someone to form an initial impression. 

But it’s far from foolproof and can often be a red herring that leads to making the wrong hire. After all, someone with a stellar personality may be likeable and get along with everyone, but it doesn’t always mean they’ll necessarily add value. If their ability to close deals and general skill set are lacking, they could be quite costly because you’ll have to start the entire hiring process all over again. 

With the U.S. Department of Labor calculating that “the average cost of a bad hiring decision is at least 30% of the individual’s first-year expected earnings,” this can be a major blow to your company. 

How to Objectively Assess Potential Sales Reps

This begs the question. How exactly do you make an objective assessment and ensure that a candidate checks all of the right boxes? 

We recommend using a tool like the sales candidate assessment from Objective Management Group (OMG). This assessment is based on an immense volume of quantitative data, where OMG analyzed over 2 million salespeople across 30,000+ companies in 200 industries. 

From their findings, they were able to pinpoint some specific factors that determine a salesperson’s likelihood of success, including the will to sell, possessing the right “sales DNA,” being coachable, having core competencies, and more. 

And the numbers speak for themselves. By using the sales candidate assessment, a staggering 92% of salespeople who were recommended reached the top half of the sales team within their first year. 

On the other hand, three quarters of candidates that weren’t recommended but still hired failed within six months. 

At the end of the day, it’s about taking a science-based, data-driven approach to hiring that gives you a comprehensive, objective view of candidates. That way you can efficiently narrow down the candidate pool without getting caught up in surface level traits like personality that don’t guarantee success. 

Keeping Your Hiring Process Objective

Hiring isn’t easy. It’s something that even the world’s top companies struggle with at times. 

Therefore, it’s common to fall back on natural human tendencies like confusing having desirable characteristics like a great personality as being an indicator of success. But as we’ve just learned, taking this approach comes with some definite pitfalls and can be more of a hindrance to hiring than an asset. 

The key to making consistently sound hiring decisions is to focus on actual skills, ideally using a tool like the sales candidate assessment, to gain an objective understanding of a person’s abilities and likelihood of success. And while having a likeable personality is a plus, it should by no means be the main factor when selecting a sales rep. 

To learn more about this common hiring mistake, along with others, check out The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams by SG Partners. 

And to learn about how to improve your hiring process, check out Best Practice to Recruiting The Hardest Role in the Company

5 Obstacles High-Level Sales Reps Must Overcome

In an eBook by sales training and coaching company, SG Partners, called Best Practice to Recruiting The Hardest Role in the Company, they talk about the difficulties involved with being a salesperson. It’s a reminder that this role is highly challenging, and being successful demands a person that possesses the right hard and soft skills. 

With that said, we’re about to take a close look at five specific obstacles high-level sales reps must overcome so you’ll have a better idea of what to look for when assessing candidates. 

Let’s jump right in. 

1. Competition

For starters, most sales reps face an immense amount of competition. Take SaaS companies for example. As of mid-2020, there were over 15,500 SaaS companies in the world. And although the number of these brands has cooled off a bit over the past three years, it’s definitely a saturated market. 

So, often the biggest obstacle is simply having an original unique value proposition (something that’s becoming more difficult, by the way) and an approach that helps your brand stand out from the competition. 

These days, the most successful reps tend to take on the role of consultant and trusted advisor rather than having an overly aggressive “sell, sell, sell” approach. They also have a genuine passion for their industry and product, which naturally shines through when they’re interacting with leads and giving product demos. 

The bottom line is that high-level sales reps have a knack for preventing your company from getting lumped into the crowd and have a likable personality that leads are receptive to. 

2. Hostility From New Prospects

SG Partners mentions that salespeople will “encounter hostility from new prospects that view their presence as an unnecessary interruption to their day. They must venture into a marketplace where prospects are time poor and often rushed, irritated, disinterested, or even hostile.”

And that’s an excellent point. Often, it doesn’t take much for a conversation to go in a negative direction, where a new prospect becomes openly hostile, especially when cold calling. If they’re caught off guard and adamantly against making a purchase, things can get ugly in a hurry. 

Therefore, a high-level sales rep must be able to disarm the situation — something that’s best done using “friendly strength.” Rather than being passive and immediately waving the white flag or returning the prospect’s hostility with their own hostility, friendly strength is where a rep combines the confidence in their product with their knowledge and expertise to steer the conversation in a more pleasant direction. 

For more on friendly strength and how it can be used to win over more prospects, check out this post by sales enablement evangelist Josh Harcus in Forbes

3. Objections From Leads

SG Partners also points out that a high-level salesperson “must persuade people to purchase from their company” — something that often requires them to overcome a gauntlet of objections. These can run the gamut, but according to Bryan Gonzalez of HubSpot, there are seven common sales objections that reps encounter most frequently. 

And let’s face it. Formulating an intelligent response, let alone one that instantly slashes through objections from a highly skeptical lead, can be incredibly difficult. So, you need a sales rep that can put themselves in a lead’s shoes and effectively quell their concerns, while putting their mind at ease. 

Possessing this ability takes time, experience, knowledge, confidence, and the right diplomatic touch. While much of it can be learned, overcoming sales objections is something that some reps are naturally more skilled at than others, which is why you should ask what their approach is to handling objections during an interview. 

4. Rejection

It should go without saying that being a sales rep is a position that requires some thick skin. As SG Partners puts it, “they will face rejection on almost a daily basis. There is no selling without rejection and salespeople will face this as they attempt to develop new business for the company.”

A high-level sales rep will have the ability to handle rejection, deal with it, and move on without it ruining their day. They’ll also be able to ensure that it doesn’t “kill their vibe” as they transition to speaking with other leads. It’s like a football quarterback being able to pick themself up and dust themself off after throwing an interception and get right back in the game. 

In short, a high-level sales rep will have the resilience and “short-term memory” needed to persevere even with chronic rejection.

5. Complacency

Finally, even the most rockstar of sales reps will likely battle complacency at some point. In fact, you could argue that this can be a bigger issue for elite sales reps as opposed to mediocre ones because of the level of success that they have. 

It’s human nature to go into “cruise control” when things are going our way. And when a rep gets massive results where they’re on fire, making sale after sale, it’s easy for them to cool off where they lose some of their drive. But the top salespeople will realize when they’re going this route and kick it into the next gear. 

While they’ll remain continually confident, they’ll also be wired to always look for areas of improvement, no matter how minor they may be. 

Overcoming Obstacles to Unlock a Rep’s True Potential 

Selling is easy, said no one ever. It’s a career that’s fraught with difficulties and one that only a small handful of individuals truly thrive in. 

In fact, exhaustive research from Objective Management Group found that only 6% of sales reps are elite performers

The five challenges listed above are some of the biggest that high-level sales reps must overcome, and having the ability to do so should always be on your radar when assessing candidates

For more on this topic and other tips for better recruiting, check out Best Practice to Recruiting The Hardest Role in the Company by SG Partners. 

And to learn about common mistakes CEOs and sales leaders make when recruiting, check out The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams