Developing sales talent – don’t forget your superstars

Developing sales talent

Developing sales talent

Sales managers, like many other managers, have a tendency not to focus on their top performers. There are many reasons – from top sales performers not demanding as much from their sales managers, to sales managers believing their superstars can handle whatever on their own, to if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Interestingly, when we talk with sales managers about with which members of their teams they invest time, more often than not we hear some version of this conundrum: “I know I should spend time with my top performers, but they seem to prefer doing their own thing and I don’t want to upset the boat” or “I’m sure they’d like more developmental attention – and would benefit  – but I’m not sure how big a bang for the buck I would get versus working with my middle performers and those not meeting quota.”

Yet when we ask those same sales managers, “What’s your reaction when you find out that one of your superstars is moving on?” You hear a lot of “my heart sinks”, “I just get sick,” or “I just mentally figure out by how much we won’t meet our numbers.”

The variety of responses reflects that while it’s a business decision, it’s also a personal one.  According to Susan Cramm, sales managers feel that salespeople leaving is painful professionally and personally.

The important point is high potential salespeople have lots of opportunities to move on. According to a Corporate Executive Board study, as many as 25% of high-potential employees plan on leaving their jobs within a year. This is certainly a statistic that all sales managers should ponder.

How can you minimize this happening on your sales team?  The CEB study shared these techniques that sales managers can use to better the odds:

  • Ensure that work is stimulating and meaningful
  • Challenge them with projects that require acquiring new skills
  • Recognize their performance beyond their compensation plan
  • Help your top sales performers feel connected to the team and the people they work with
  • Give them a chance to grow professionally and personally

According to the CEB, when these conditions aren’t present, it’s more likely that your top sales performers will leave.

Our suggestion is if you are a VP of Sales – ask yourself these questions:

  • How much revenue are we likely to lose over the next 12 months if 25% of our top performers leave?
  • What is the long-term impact on repeat business if 25% of our top performers leave?
  • If they leave what will the impact be on the top performers who didn’t leave?
  • How long will it take and how much will it cost to recruit, hire, and train replacements for the top performers we lose?

This is an easy one – if you don’t invest in your top sales performers they are going to leave either now or later – the associated short and long term costs are staggering – the preventive actions are known and the cost of doing something is a rounding error compared to the costs of doing nothing.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC



About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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