retain top sales talent

How to Retain Top Sales Talent

There’s no silver bullet for retaining top sales talent – the tactics vary depending on what motivates each individual. The biggest mistake you can make when trying to retain a top performer though is assuming that it’s all about money.

Money is not something that is unique to your company, it’s not a defensible competitive advantage. Every other company has money, and they’re willing to pay for a top producer too.

That being said, here are some other ways to think about retaining top talent:

Challenge them

Besides focusing on money too much, the number one mistake companies make is giving top performers a free pass. This is exactly the opposite of what a company should be doing.  We are talking about a team member who has spectacular capabilities. Hold them to a higher standard, challenge them. Give them the same honest / direct / tough feedback you would give any employee. Challenge them to grow.

Most top performers find the job they are doing to be easy – this is when boredom settles in and they’ll start looking for another job. Too many companies are afraid to develop their top performers because they’re afraid the performance might go away.

Give them additional responsibility

This springs from the topic above and could be a way to challenge them. It’s also a way to make sure that the top performer isn’t getting bored in the role doing the same job over and over again.

One example is giving them ownership over a larger part of their sale. For example, if most salespeople hand deals off at a certain time to an account manager, maybe there’s a way to leverage your top performer to work with the AM. Another example might be giving them the ability to go after a larger deal size and take on a more complex sale.

Sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and to give them projects that are not at all related to their selling – it really depends on the interests of the top performer. In this case, you could consider having them develop new sales enablement material or contribute to the new hire’s onboarding training with new ideas.

Show them you care

Take the time to get to know them as a person. Take the time to get to know their significant other or their families. So few management teams take this simple step and it matters for all employees, not just top performers.

No, this is not just a euphemism for “pay them more.” This is literally about leadership in your company acting like humans. Have the CEO take them out to lunch but not talk about work. Have your VP of Marketing take them for drinks after work.

Get them hooked on the office culture and social network

This concept works particularly well with entry-level sales teams. If it’s a first job for many of the team members and it’s a larger team, many new friendships will form. The social scene in the office can become a powerful retention motivator for every type of performer on the team.

You don’t need to turn your office into a social club, but be mindful of ways that you can break the ice and create a sales culture that fosters meaningful relationships. Take the team outside of the office into more informal settings and encourage them to get to know each other personally.

Golden Handcuffs

Of course money is important. If you’ve found a top performer that contributes to the long-term financial success of your company, then it makes sense to put your money where your mouth is.

This is one of the rare times where you can consider residuals or some sort of bonus on their total book of business. Make it annual so that the person has to think long term, but be careful to not make the bonus 100% based on existing business they’ve generated. Yet again, if it gets too easy then people start to get bored.

Though these methods are not fool-proof, they are a great starting point to keep your top talent with you for as long as possible. Make sure you’re providing them the best experience you can provide with your company and the rest will fall into place.

Evan Bartlett

Evan Bartlett is the co-founder of Building The Sales Machine, and Sales Director at ZocDoc. Building the Sales Machine (BTM) is a quarterly meet-up for experienced sales leaders that are scaling sales organizations.