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Effective Coaching Is Critical For Retaining Top Sales Talent

  • Written by C. Lee Smith, SalesFuel
  • Published in Demanding Views

CLeeSmith 1By today, retaining the Millennial salesperson is a top priority. For most, it’s also a challenge.

Sure, making the office more appealing helps, but tried-and-true leadership, mentorship and guidance will beat free snacks every time. It turns out, supportive manager relationships help retain sales reps of all ages.

My company, SalesFuel, surveyed 725 sales reps in January about their work cultures, their jobs and what they’re struggling with the most. The result was shockingly simple: they want better relationships with their managers. From these results, we can now foster and improve those relationships by focusing on the following:

1) Managers must be available. And that means be available on all levels—physically, mentally, virtually and emotionally.

Successful supervisors don’t leave reps to “figure it out” themselves. Thriving managers are visible and accessible to employees—they take phone calls and answer emails from their salespeople regularly. Thus, engaged employees are happier and more productive.

In fact, an engaged manager can make all the difference to the bottom line. Nearly half of our respondents left jobs because they didn’t like their direct managers or were unsatisfied with their managers’ performance. This has a significant negative impact on profit because replacing a productive salesperson can cost between 100% and 180% of his or her annual salary, according to BIA/Kelsey analysis of 2016 data.

2) Managers must coach. If done properly, coaching improves the performance and capabilities of salespeople. Yet, one of the most shocking findings from The 2017 Voice of the Sales Rep study was that nearly 4 out of 5 salespeople didn’t believe their managers’ coaching improved their win rates.

This can be improved with greater discovery of each salesperson to find the hidden obstacles keeping them from advancing to the next level. The best place for managers to start is through the use of assessments. What platform you use—DISC, MBTI or something else—doesn’t matter. Assessment tools can be used for screening candidates, but should also be utilized for coaching.

Through these assessments, supervisors can adapt and customize their management styles according to each rep’s personality. In fact, the best "management style" is often no style at all. Just as sales has become more consultative or "customer-centric," sales management must become more individualized or "employee-centric.” We are entering the era of what I call “consultative management."

3) Managers must make improving people as important as improving numbers. Yes, scrutinizing spreadsheets and sitting in meetings are part of the job, but those tasks are not the most important part of a sales manager’s role. Managers need to stop prioritizing reporting and start prioritizing people.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but talking with salespeople about their career goals and aspirations promotes loyalty. Supervisors should talk to sellers about their past jobs and ask what they need from their current jobs. From the survey respondents who voluntarily left their previous job, only 20% said their current managers have meaningful discussions about their careers. Another 21% are looking for learning opportunities, training or education, but their managers are unaware that they are seeking development. In addition, 32% of respondents said they would stay longer if they received more opportunities for advancement.

Do your salespeople think you know them enough—and care enough—to coach them effectively? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


C. Lee Smith is the CEO of SalesFuel, a company that leverages data on prospects and employees to help sales teams close more deals, develop talent and increase revenue. Smith’s team recently introduced TeamKeeper, a data-driven talent retention platform.