Will You Be Able to Keep Your Superstars in 2021?

Money and incentives matter, but this year more than ever they’re only part of the sales retention story.

Coming off of a tough year in 2020, more employees are feeling burned out and overwhelmed. With the stresses of the pandemic, uncertainty in the business environment, and pressures of working from home and juggling personal and professional lives, we’re all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021.

The question is, will your best employees be looking for that fresh start somewhere else?

Even with high unemployment rates hanging on, Manpower’s latest Employment Outlook Survey sees momentum picking up at the beginning of the year, with more job openings and stable or improved hiring prospects in many areas. At the same time, the remote work and selling environment — which isn’t going to completely go away anytime soon — is taking its toll. In addition to burnout and feelings of isolation, some employees are losing their sense of connection and loyalty to the company. “A direct result will be workers sprucing up their resumes and updating LinkedIn to land a new job someplace better,” one career counselor warns.

The reality is, as things start to settle down over the next year and people have more job opportunities to consider, you could be at risk of losing some of your star players — the ones who were pivotal in carrying the business through in an extremely tough year. And they might even be headed to your biggest competitors. So, what are you going to do today to keep them engaged and motivated, make sure they know they’re valued, and help them continually grow to meet tomorrow’s challenges?

Here are three steps that will help you retain and develop your sales talent in 2021 and beyond:

1. Equip Salespeople for Today’s Selling Environment

Many salespeople who’ve had a lot of success in their careers have struggled to adapt to the world of virtual sales. While the same selling fundamentals apply, there are some very specific and important differences. But sales leaders often assume the star players can figure it out — that they don’t need the extra support.

The problem is, once someone’s confidence wavers, it starts to chip away at what they believe is possible for them to achieve. Their morale and engagement drop, and things tend to spiral from there. In this instance, your superstars might not be leaving you for your competitor, but they might not be performing like they used to. And it’s not all on them.

Mindset and beliefs play a critical role in sales performance, yet they’re often overlooked or underestimated, especially when it comes to sales training. Take a fresh look at your training strategies and make sure they’re updated for today’s business environment. At a minimum, they should address these unconscious barriers to success as well as the other common traps of virtual selling.

2. Coach for Sales Success

Salespeople at all levels want to work for leaders who are committed to developing them and helping them grow in their careers. If they can’t find that where they are, they’ll look elsewhere.

This means your managers’ dedication to coaching is just as important as the sales training you provide. While the salesperson has to have a strong belief in his or her own abilities, the manager’s belief in the person is also pivotal, because when they see potential, a promising salesperson will rise to the occasion. Coaching is one more way of demonstrating a belief in the salesperson’s ability to keep pushing beyond their own boundaries and reaching higher levels of success.

Most sales managers will tell you that they agree coaching is an important factor in a salesperson’s performance. Awareness doesn’t mean it’s happening though. The vast majority of managers either aren’t doing it regularly, aren’t doing it effectively or aren’t doing it at all.

What about your managers? Is coaching a priority, or are they “too busy” for it? Do they even understand what coaching really is? Here’s a quick 10-question assessment to find out and determine what gaps you might need to fill in 2021.

3. Create an Irresistible Sales Culture

Of course people care about financial rewards. But just as you would tell your salesforce, “competing on price” is rarely an effective or sustainable long-term strategy. People want to work where there’s a connection between their personal values and what the company stands for, and where managers believe in them and help them accomplish more.

Time and again, these are the companies that are relentlessly focused on building and maintaining strong cultures rooted in integrity. Even though 2020 is in the rearview mirror, we know that there will always be more disruptions and more challenges around the corner. That’s just the reality of business and life. But when people can find meaning in what they do and see the value in what they provide to customers, they’ll be energized and engaged by the work.  That’s what builds loyalty — among employees as well as customers. 

Focus on these three steps and you’ll not only retain your top salespeople; you’ll help everyone build the mindset, beliefs and inner drive to go beyond their preconceived limitations and achieve more—for themselves, the company and their customers. What a way to start fresh in 2021!