Talented salespeople have options in today’s workforce. According to a Glassdoor survey from a few years ago, two-thirds of Account Executives (AEs) said they would look for a new job in the next year, and almost half said they would start looking in the next quarter.


Source: Glassdoor, 2014


Although the survey is a few years old, the problem many small businesses may face in their sales team is the same — talent attrition. Happily, you have a secret weapon to combat it: you!

In my experience, three of the top five workplace factors that cause sales reps to leave a company are directly influenced by their direct manager or executive leader. Career growth opportunities, relationship with manager, and senior leadership are all directly influenced by a rep’s direct manager. So, what can SMB leaders do to help enable strong management and retain sales talent?

Here are four tips to decrease AE attrition in your business:


1. Schedule Regular Career Conversations

At Salesforce, we run a management survey for new leaders as they move into their roles. What do AEs want help with more than anything else? They agree that "career development and personal coaching" tops this list, by a longshot. Career-focused conversations are a great opportunity to keep seasoned AEs on your team, and they’re easy to have. Start by asking one simple question: What are your career aspirations here at the company? Is it to succeed in your current role? Take on more responsibility? Move into management? In addition to the nuts-and-bolts meetings you will have to talk about driving ACV, supporting customers, and forecasting sales numbers, try setting up recurring calendar invites — start with once monthly — with the single agenda item of career growth conversations.



2. Proactively Present Career Growth Opportunities

This will work differently depending on the size and structure of your business, but when you’re looking for help, look first to the people you already have. Have a management opening? Share it with your AEs. Statistically speaking, according to an internal Salesforce Leader Enablement Study, roughly one-third of them are looking to move into management, so why not look to keep good talent in-house? SMBs often have unique opportunities to create and adapt roles and responsibilities, so think about ways to offer growth opportunities within the “family” before deciding to hire new people.


3. Bring Your AEs into the Recruiting Game

You know what’s a great way to keep a sales rep on your team? Get them recruiting hard to bring in more people they’re excited to work with. When AEs help bring their friends and colleagues into the fold, they’ve got new motivation to stick around and make sure the new hires are successful. Have your AEs put some skin in the "people pipeline game.” Even schedule regular "People Pipeline" sessions, just as you do for ACV and forecasting. Walk through open headcount and recruit as a team for all positions.


4. Upskill Your Coaching Process

Coaching is a skill, and coaches can improve their craft just like AEs do with selling. Are you using any of the amazing tools available to help coaches and managers develop their skill sets? GROW (and InsideOut Coaching) is one of the most effective coaching frameworks to drive success. This framework leverages the power of asking the right questions at the right times, as opposed to managing people by "telling them what to do.” This is our go-to coaching framework at Salesforce, and it’s great as guidance to reach meaningful breakthroughs with your AEs in 1:1 meetings.

Stay focused on what your AEs are really asking for: Career development and personal coaching. Through regular career-focused conversations, creating opportunities for growth from within, and getting your team involved in recruiting, you can create opportunities for your sales reps to grow their careers without leaving your company.


Check out our free learning resources on Trailhead for more on retaining talent, conducting effective one-on-one meetings, and building your coaching and feedback skills. Nurture exceptional talent and keep them in your SMB family for many years to come! Happy coaching.

Looking for more advice on how your small business can rise above growth challenges? Download our Small and Medium Business Trends Report to learn how small businesses are charting a course to find, win, and keep customers.

Salesforce can help you find customers, win their businesses, and keep them happy so you can grow your business faster than ever. Follow @SalesforceSMB on Twitter to learn more about Salesforce Essentials, the easiest way to get started with CRM.