*As seen on Forbes.com
Retaining sales talent continues to be a primary focus for senior sales leaders. For a role that tends to have high turnover rates even in the best of times, turnover in 2022 was at its highest in over five years. Why? It’s not the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, or one of the many other workforce trends impacting Corporate America. It’s much more tangible.
In fact, the top reasons cited by sellers include unrealistic sales targets, inadequate technology or tools, and too much administrative work. And with growing instability in the sales force and waning seller confidence to hit revenue targets, a sales leader’s ability to drive predictable revenue becomes even more challenging.
The good news is that these are all challenges that can be overcome. Now, it’s no doubt that sales leaders have an uphill climb in front of them but there are several strategies leaders can employ to face the challenge head-on.
Promote Transparency and Collaboration
One way to help retain top talent is for leaders to take a new approach to enabling and empowering their sales teams by promoting stronger organizational transparency and collaboration throughout the sales organization.
While speaking at Varicent’s conference, Accelerate, Zach Burnett, EVP of Global Field Operations at Varicent, shared how leveraging tools that promote transparency and collaboration can address perceptions of unrealistic sales targets and unnecessary administrative requirements – two of the core elements driving increased seller attrition.
“I believe that for organizations to really drive transparency and collaboration, having a tool that's going to allow the teams to really understand their territories, identify new opportunities, and very easily see changes. It's going to create greater satisfaction and transparency for the team, but ultimately, it's going to give a lot of time back to do what we do best and that's connecting with prospects and clients”.
Zach Burnett, EVP of Global Field Operations at Varicent, speaking at the Varicent Accelerate conference.
Providing greater transparency also helps to create a sense of psychological safety for team members. Not only does this help increase their confidence, but it can reduce stress and improve sleep. And, in addition to providing transparency to the seller, leaders can also gain a line of sight into a seller’s current activities. This allows leaders to use meetings to focus on removing barriers or understanding how they can better support a sales member instead of using that time to do a status report.
Improve Forecasting and Drive Linearity Through a Bifocal Lens
On the flip side, from perceptions of unrealistic sales targets and rising turnover, inaccurate forecasts often leave leaders in a difficult spot when trying to deliver predictable revenue. When leaders depend on seller forecasts that are fraught with inaccuracy and bias, confidence to hit targets suffers. In fact, over 90% of sales leaders struggle to forecast revenue within a 5% margin of error, even in the final days of a reporting period.
The reality is that deals slip, too, making forecast accuracy even harder. In a recent survey, four out of five respondents reported more than 10% of their committed deals slipped out of quarter. And some 40% reported slippage in excess of 25%. Leaders can’t depend on an end-of-quarter Hail Mary to deliver on revenue goals; they must drive greater linearity and a balance of short- and long-term accountability and incentives.
When you have a flexible tool to plan and execute incentives, you can take a bifocal approach that allows you to set annual plans to support big goals, and flex mid-year to adjust strategy. Consider a sales team that missed revenue targets in Q1 and has to make up ground, quickly. Introducing a short-term SPIF in Q2 that disproportionally rewards closing business early in the quarter (rather than waiting until the end) can motivate sellers and help close the revenue gap created by shortage in the previous period. Which, ultimately, improves forecasting and linearity, and gets your team back on track to deliver on revenue goals.
Clarify (and Incentivize) Your Success Equation to Reduce Inefficiencies
With sellers spending only 28% of their week on productive selling tasks, leaders can lean on technology to automate and severely reduce manual administrative work. Creating more time for sales teams to engage with prospects and conduct outreach is essential, as it now takes 8 or more touchpoints before a sale closes. Potential buyers need frequent engagements and communications with a seller before they complete their purchase, and that takes valuable time.
In another comment made by Zach Burnett during Accelerate, he stated, “We, as an organization, cannot control what's happening in the marketplace, but we can control what we do. So, putting together that success equation around what are the factors you as a seller or client facing team member can do to be successful, right, it could be activity level, it could be communication, cadence, things like that and, and compensating for those things”.
By clarifying your team’s success equation, you can create more focus in the day for your sales team as they conduct outreach and engage with customers or prospects. Maybe your success equation includes a target number of quality conversations reps should have in a week, or how many touch points you have with a prospect over a given month as key leading indicators for hitting seller revenue targets.
Identifying the key factors that consistently help drive seller success is the starting point, consider shifting your incentive model to reward the leading indicators, in addition to the lagging results (e.g., revenue targets, etc.) While driving predictable revenue in the face of rising turnover may feel impossible, having the right strategies and tools in place can help you achieve your goals – more consistently and quickly.
Learn more about enabling your sales teams and creating an environment that every top seller wants to be a part of, download our eBook Helping Revenue Leaders Drive Growth: Five Actions to Ensure Sales Leadership Success.