Gound Hog Day for Sales Exits

The year-end commission check is a major root cause of turnover. For top earners it marks the end of the 2012 comp accelerator. For others who failed to Make their Number, the payout is  disappointing. It’s a reminder to return calls from head hunters. In either case, it’s exit time for the best sales talent.


What can you do? Will this happen every February?  Take control today with an action plan and some tools to make permanent changes. The plan has two phases: Recovery and Prevention.


Recovery Step 1: Rebuild

Hire the right people by defining fit and competencies for the job. Avoid the treacherous and hidden costs of mis-hires.


  • Understand who buys your product or service, the buyer persona
  • Learn what customers value from the sales support team
  • Use the Win / Loss analysis to pinpoint critical competencies
  • Identify the traits that distinguish top performers
  • Develop a customized job fit profile for sourcing
  • Look for job fit PLUS sales competencies when you hire


Recovery Step 2: Onboard & Mentor

Avoid the mistake of assuming that ‘A’ Players will figure it out on their own. These strong, confident personalities are hired based their record of success. They are reluctant to admit gaps in their abilities or knowledge. ‘A’ Players want to hit the ground running so they often take shortcuts. This only delays their true progress. Use mentors to ensure they stay on track.


Onboarding is more than just scheduling new hires for Sales Training 101 class. Revenue growth is delayed and customers are frustrated by ineffective new hires. 


Prevention Step 3: Build a Bench

This is where HR can rescue Sales when a top performer quits.  The stability will ensure that you still Make the Number.  Get started today:


  • Identify candidates
      • Enlist your ‘A’ players to identify 5 top reps they know
      • Have your ‘A’ Sales Managers make 5 suggestions each
      • Ask your top 5 customers about the bestTopgrading Telephone Interview people selling to them
  • Start Topgrading phone screening by HR – share the workload
      • Don’t wait for an open requisition
      • Let candidates know this is a “Virtual Bench” opportunity
  • Use a Virtual Bench Nurturing Tool.  Get a copy of ours here
      • Identify where each Candidate is at in their individual ‘Buying’ Process
      • Nurture each one with the appropriate dialogue and content
  • Regularly inform your candidates of their status – maintain their patience and interest


Be ready to pull the trigger instantly. Create a “drawer-ready” offer letter. The typical corporate hiring process takes 3 to 4 weeks – after the decision is made!  Much of that time is with internal admin steps and approvals. Get everything ready now to minimize wasted time. Have an offer letter in your desk drawer; ready to sign and send.   


Prevention Step 4: Learn from the Past

HR and Sales leaders can avoid re-living the past by taking a history lesson. What happened this year? The best way to find out is through exit interviews. They are only valuable if they are done correctly.


Use multiple vantage points. Include a peer, HR, the Sales Manager and the VP of Sales. This may seem like a lot of firepower, but this is only for elite performers. This is not for every salesperson that leaves. If the person consistently contributed to the top line, their insight is priceless.


The purpose of each of the parallel interviews is very specific. Using a company-wide format does not uncover what sales leaders need to know.


Peer: The peer is also an ‘A’ player. The feedback is candid; uncovering when and why they decided to look elsewhere. This requires coaching and trust – use it for high potential candidates.


VP of Sales: The involvement of the senior leader sends a message to the entire sales organization: The contribution of ‘A’ Players is highly valued. The meeting should be in person. The focus is high-level: job design, sales management and company concerns.


Sales Manager: This requires more listening than talking. By following the questions in the guide, the former boss focuses on management style. Was it appropriate? Were you challenged enough?


Human Resources: HR has a neutral viewpoint and can offer valuable feedback to all stakeholders. The interview should focus on the same three things as the VP of Sales.


At the end of the interviews, HR should lead a debrief call. Compare the findings and decide if any action is required. Share the information with the sales force. Although this sounds risky, the real risk is in silence. In reality, the sales force respects honesty.  Keeping it a secret forces the sales team to get answers on their own. 


Next Steps

Building competency models and fit profiles can be time consuming and challenging. But help is available. Onboarding programs and parallel exit interviews also require expertise.  Your choice is to start now, or experience it all over again next Groundhog Day.  The path forward is clear – go for it!