When you have a small but mighty team, everyone matters – and when even one person leaves, it can have a huge impact.
More often than not on a small team, everyone is doing the work of at least three people, so the ripple effect of someone leaving at a small company is much bigger than at a large company.
So, how do you keep people happy and engaged, and most importantly, on your team?
In today’s episode of the Sales Fiction Podcast, we’re kicking off the first of a 3-part series on developing your team and keeping them happy.
There’s a common fear when it comes to investing in your team as a small business owner, and that is that if you spend time and energy developing talent, that eventually that person is just going to leave your company and go work for someone else – essentially using the strategies and strengths they’ve learned to now go and help your competition.
If you help your team members to become successful at their jobs, they are going to become a hot commodity and immediately be recruited out from under you.
It makes sense to not want to put the work and resources into training somebody for your competitor’s benefit.
While there is certainly a risk of developing your people to the level that they become highly sought after and recruited by other companies and eventually leave your team, the greater risk is having average people stay on your team.
You may not feel you can afford to train and develop a new person to their fullest potential, but in reality, you cannot afford not to. Having average people on your sales team is going to end up costing you far more in time, money, brand capital, and opportunities, than having talent recruited.
Disengaged employees are going to have a far worse impact.
According to a study from the Gallup Organization, disengaged employees:
Engagement (or lack of it) is contagions, and so if you have on a person on your team who isn’t feeling engaged, challenged, or satisfied in their role, it affects every other single person on your team.
No one can stay on your team forever, so there’s no getting around the fact that people can and will leave, but it’s important to realize the risk in believing the myth that if you develop good people, they are just going to leave for better opportunities.
Common reasons why people leave a company
I recently read a LinkedIn survey where it was shown the most common reasons why professionals leave their jobs are:
In sales, we tend to hyper-focus on compensation and commission plans – paying people more so that they will want to work for us and not the competition.
And while that all can help, ultimately what is most important to people are the opportunities for advancement, the leadership, company culture, and feeling challenged.
Retention is even more of a hot-button issue in the sales industry, as we have twice the turnover rate as the rest of the workforce.
It’s especially important to address issues of retention when leading a small sales team if you think about a great deal of time, money, and energy is invested to find a great salesperson who feels like the right fit, train them up on your products, and have that new team member form new relationships with clients and customers.
It costs money every time somebody leaves, so as a sales leader, one of the biggest ways that you can impact your business is to create an environment where people are compelled to stay.
Increasing retention in your team
Get creative in offering opportunities for advancement
It can be challenging to make room for advancement in a small company, and most sales structures are set up to be flat – basically, if you are great at sales, you stay in sales, with the only potential for growth being to change your compensation structure. (Or just make more sales.)
People will generally be ok without the promise of advancement when they are first starting out, but in the long term, it is human nature to want to grow.
If we aren’t actively seeking ways to create those opportunities in our sales teams, this is when people start to look elsewhere.
You may be thinking:
“But what if you give them new responsibilities or change their role, and it turns out that they are not good at it? If they are not successful, they won’t feel satisfied and you’ll lose someone who was good at their original role and should have just stayed put!”
But what if you don’t give them new opportunities? The data shows you’ll lose them anyway, right?
Say a star sales team member moves into more of a leadership role or a marketing role within the company. There’s going to be a learning curve, and they may struggle in their new role at first, but if you don’t have a path for growth and advancement opportunities for your sales teams as individuals, you are going to struggle with retention as a whole.
Evaluate your leadership
Do you care about the success of your team members? (I know that you do, but do your team members know that you do?)
In sales, every month is a new month and every quarter a new quarter. And what I mean by that is that it doesn’t matter what success you had 6 months ago – what are you doing for your team today?
It’s important to find ways to demonstrate that you care about your team and that you are committed to helping them succeed.
Also, ask yourself whether your team members trust you. Do they trust that you’re doing what is in their best interest? And the customer’s best interest?
This can often cause friction between a team and its leadership, so make sure that the actions you are taking as a business owner or leader demonstrate that you care, even at the expense of short-term business profits.
How do you handle difficult situations? How do you step up to lead?
If you were a salesperson on your team, how confident would you be in your own leadership? Would you want to work for you?
This plays a large part in your team’s culture, which we also talked about being one of the most common reasons for leaving.
Challenge your team
We tend to view salespeople as being a bit lazy. We think they just want to do what they need to do to hit their number and then go home – but ultimately, people like to be challenged.
How can you continue to give your team members autonomy while challenging them to grow in new roles and skills?
This can have a massive impact on engagement levels in your team, as people tend to get bored selling the same product year after year.
Stagnancy leads to turnover, so as the team lead, you are responsible for creating a challenging environment that supports people’s growth.
Offer rewards & recognition
It doesn’t matter how young or old – we all like to receive gold stars for our work.
What are you doing on a weekly and monthly basis to recognize members of your team for their contribution?
Not everyone is going to hit their sales goals every month, but there are micro wins that you can create and celebrate to keep spirits high and your team engaged.
Looking for more resources to help you develop and retain top performers for your small but mighty team? Join us in the Mighty Sales Facebook Community!
Here is a link to the Episode's Show Notes.