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MG Sales Talent Network 8th July - report

Jul 12, 2016
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How can we retain and develop the ‘best of the best’ sales people?

Our topic at the most recent Sales Leaders Talent Network 

According to the CSO Insights survey the turnover of sales people is five times higher than in any other profession.

So why are sales people least committed to a company? Do sales people leave for money and better benefits? Or is there a difference in a sales person’s DNA and there’s nothing anyone can do about it?!

Additionally, good sales people get promoted too soon which leaves the company’s performance in jeopardy. Our panelists discussed and answered these and other questions.

The panel

Brian Tilley, The Leaf Solution

Gareth Neale, Learning and Development Manager, PPHE Hotel Group

Lindsay Southward, Group Director of People and People Development, Malmaison and Hotel Du Vin

MG STN 8 Jul 16 photo 3.jpg

l-r: Brian Tilley - Lindsay Southward - Gareth Neale - Mark Gallen

Here’s what they said:

  • Why are sales people so transient?

Sales people don’t leave the company, they leave their manager.  How they are led and managed is key.  Three key factors to retain sales people are recognition, opportunity for progression and responsibility.  As long as the right remuneration is paid, then sales people don’t leave companies for money.

Gallup surveyed 7,000 people to ask them why they left their company.  Fifty percent are said ‘to get away from my manager’. Worryingly the Sales Executive Council (researchers behind the best-selling sales book “The Challenger Sale”) claim that only 30% of sales leaders are competent coaches and mentors.

Sales people that stay aren’t necessarily happy, they’re in their comfort zone and suffering inertia.

Isolation and detachment can be a problem for sales people as they often work away from the organisation.  It is the responsibility of the manager to create the right environment for the sales person to flourish.

Recruiting the right person in the first instance.  If there isn’t a good fit with the brand and culture, then retention will be a challenge.

Culture must nurture and excite them.

It’s about the learning and development that people get.  At John Lewis the turnover was 4% (whereas other retailers 40%).  Pay is very average at John Lewis so definitely not about pay.

At Virgin Active the turnover of the sales team was running at 80% and in some cases 200%.  Nobody looked at the reasons why.  As soon as we started offering sales training courses the turnover quickly reduced to 50%.

Key focus is having line managers who are equipped and able to coach the sales team.

  • Is promiscuity such a bad thing?

It’s about keeping someone for longer, not forever.

Promiscuity leads to the cost of recruitment and cost of lost sales. 

Sales people staying longer than four to five years in the same role often leads to complacency and less hunger

In independent interviews, people always stated a lack of learning and development as their main reason for leaving an organization.  Invest in people and they stay.

  • Are sales leaders competent coaches and mentors?

According to the Corporate Executive Board only 30% of sales leaders are good coaches. Most blame time and few are equipped with the skills.  Too often the best sales person on the team is promoted to leader but the required skills are very different.

  • Then why does the industry keep promoting the best sales person to the role of leader?

One reason is that it is easier to measure a sales person than it is to measure leadership. In most organisations it is the natural progression of the sales person and there are few alternative career moves mapped out.


MG STN 8 Jul 16 photo 1.jpg   MG STN 8 Jul 16 photo 2.jpg 

l-r: Russell Green, IHG - Stuart Leven, Royal Caribbean International - Mark Stephens, SilverDoor - Matt Roberts, SACO - Brett Arscott, Jupiter Hotels - Ros Young, Rocco Forte Hotels


Conclusions – how do organisations retain the ‘best of the best’ sales people?

  • Sales has to have a voice at the top table – L&D budgets prioritised
  • Senior team have to lead a sales culture
  • Clarity of role must be provided and what is expected of them
  • Sales leaders must be challenged about their own role, what can they do differently?
  • Time must be made for sales coaching
  • L&D must be more involved in the sales team




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