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6 Things Sales Leaders Can Do to Counter The Great Resignation

Shift your focus from the pipeline to the reps that keep it flowing and make your team feel trusted and empowered.

illustration of (4) professionally dressed people running towards an exit door: sales great resignation
While there are more ways than ever to stay connected virtually, the shift to remote work has left employees feeling isolated. [Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images]

A record-shattering 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November 2021, part of an exodus known as The Great Resignation. That trend is expected to continue this year, posing big questions and even bigger implications for sales leaders.

What happens when your top sales rep — along with all their institutional knowledge, leadership, and training — jumps ship? What does it mean for the continuity of your team and your pipeline when a vital team member is at risk of leaving? Most importantly, why do reps decide to leave and what can you do to convince them to stay?

It starts with shifting your focus from your pipeline to the sales reps that keep it flowing and building a culture of trust and transparency in the process.

Fighting The Great Resignation “is about building the best culture,” said Lindsay Boggs, sales development rep leader at Lucidworks. “Salespeople want to feel trusted.”

If you’re working remotely, you’ll have to work extra hard to connect each team member to that culture. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Get personal, get vulnerable, get connected

While there are more ways than ever to stay connected virtually, the shift to remote work has left employees feeling isolated. A recent McKinsey survey found 51% of employees who left their jobs reported a lack of a sense of belonging at work. This was especially jarring for the typically extroverted sales community, where in-person, face-to-face reactions are a key component of many reps’ sales tactics.

It’s basic, but the tried-and-true coffee chat goes a long way in creating a direct sense of connection. As you meet with reps, get to know them and let them get to know you. At the start of the meeting, ask about their well-being and share some of your own experiences so they feel comfortable opening up. Listen to what they’ve been through and offer understanding and flexibility when it comes to when, how, and where they work. Give them an opportunity to give you feedback.

I recently conducted my first demo, and [my manager] sent a note celebrating the small win. Since she posted that message, I’ve been totally zoned in at work.

Alexine Mudawar, Strategic Account Executive, Alyce

2. Commit to a regular cadence of coaching sessions 

Professional development is key to giving employees the skills they need to succeed, while keeping them happy amid growing resignations and career shifts, according to a recent LinkedIn Learning report. Consistent coaching is one way to create opportunities for reps to level up — and stay happy (hopefully) in their roles.

“We have to recognize that people want to get better. They want to grow. They want to do a really great job,” said Gabrielle Blackwell, business development representative manager at Airtable. “When we can show up as leaders in the way they need, we can get the best out of folks and feel like this is the place I can really thrive.”

Take your coaching sessions to the next level by focusing not just on measuring their success, but giving them the tools and training to achieve it. In each coaching session, make sure you leave time to ask about professional development opportunities they might be interested in, provide feedback on the skills you think they could hone, and highlight opportunities to support other team members in their development through presentations or mentorships. Reskilling, upskilling, and training your team is never a wasted investment.

People want to get better. They want to grow. They want to do a really great job. When we can show up as leaders in the way they need, we can get the best out of folks.

Gabrielle Blackwell, BDR Manager, Airtable

3. Leave room for creativity

For sales trainer and CEO of JB Sales John Barrows, a key part of keeping reps interested in their work is creativity. “If your job was to push a button every day, 100 times, and have no creativity around that, how long would you wanna be in that job?” Barrows asked.

Cultivate an environment that allows your reps to embrace their inner artists and explore tactics that work best for them. One way to do this: Create regular team meetings for reps to share their specific deal wins. This puts the spotlight on their ingenuity, while also scales best practices across the team. You could even create a repository of these ideas, so that they’re documented and widely available for future reference.

“Provide a structure for reps to play in, but allow them the autonomy to try new things,” Barrows said. “If they’re not challenged, they’re going to get bored out of their mind and go find a new job.”

If your job was to push a button every day, 100 times, and have no creativity around that, how long would you wanna be in that job? We’re turning these reps into robots.

John Barrows, CEO, JB Sales

4. Build belief in what they’re selling

A Forrester survey found lack of confidence in a company’s product or service was the top reason sales executives decided to leave for a new opportunity. Yet only 38% of customers say the employees they interact with understand their needs, making it hard for them to see the product the rep is selling as an effective solution.

So what’s keeping your reps from understanding customers? They can’t see the solution in action. Most companies still operate with distinct sales and customer success teams, which means many reps never get to see the positive results from product implementation.

The easiest way to fix this: build a bridge between sales and customer success. Have reps sit in on customer success calls, so they understand the impact your solution has on your customer’s day-to-day. Attend performance review meetings to see the hard-number impact of what you’re selling every day. With these touchpoints folded into the sales process, reps will believe in the potential of the company’s product to make real change for customers.

5. Reward your reps when they win

Your reps are the backbone of your revenue growth. Make sure you reward them accordingly. A recent McKinsey survey found 54% of employees cited feeling underappreciated or undervalued as a top reason they might quit their job.

Of course, compensation matters. Benchmark data from SiriusDecisions shows 89% of sellers leave for higher pay. Special performance incentive funds, or SPIFs, are also commonly used incentives. More than 50% of best-in-class companies see increased profits through the use of SPIFs, Aberdeen Group research shows.

If you’re unsure what incentives to offer, survey your team about what would most motivate them — then follow through by actually rewarding reps with the gifts they wanted. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Host regular celebratory events — from a catered lunch to an after-work happy hour — where you give kudos for work well done and encourage more of it
  • Offer tickets to sporting events or concerts, or a gift certificate to the best new restaurant in town (to be determined based on each person’s comfort level)
  • Go for an all-out awards ceremony to recognize your top reps and motivate other members of your team

Remember, rewards don’t always have to be big or only about big wins. Consistently rewarding and shouting out good work and small victories builds momentum towards a bigger goal and helps everyone feel valued day after day.

“I recently conducted my first demo, and [my manager] sent a note celebrating the small win,” said Alexine Mudawar, strategic account executive at Alyce. “Since she posted that message, I’ve been totally zoned in at work.”

6. Give reps a break

At a time when burnout is high and morale is low, you don’t want your reps running on fumes — for their own health and the health of your business. Sometimes, the best way to ensure long-term, sustainable success is to slow down or adjust your goals. It might feel scary to rein in your targets, but the World Health Organization found strategies focused on reducing burnout and improving mental health results in a huge return on investment of $4 in greater productivity and improved health for every $1 invested.

You can expect commitment and high-quality performance, while also offering empathy and understanding. Be generous with time off and do your best to accommodate flexible working environments and hours. Allow your reps to recharge after closing a big deal. Let them know it’s OK to prioritize themselves, their families, and their mental health over their pipeline.

What’s next?

These are just a few ways to counter The Great Resignation and create a more empowered sales team. To ensure ongoing success, stay in the know on the latest and greatest sales wisdom. Our new video series, “Think Outside the Quota,” features advice on how to engage the best talent to ensure business growth.

Take a peek at our first episode, “Relax on the Robots.”

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