If so, it’s time for a hero to help out – the HR Leader.  The HR Leader can take some concrete steps to stop the exit of sales reps and therefore the loss of revenue.How HR stops top Sales Reps from leaving


Here are 4 immediate and then 3 longer-term things the HR leader can do to help out:
(Sign-up for the Make the Number Tour for more in-depth discussion)


Immediate Help for Sales 


1. Help the sales leader identify any reps that are at risk of leaving.

This should actually be an ongoing task of the HR leader to have frequent discussions with Sales Directors and Sales Managers to keep pulse on which Reps may be at risk for leaving.  Working with Sales Management and Sales Operations to review sales reports, the HR Leader will also look in personnel files to see if a Sales Rep:


      • Has a career history that shows he/she is at the usual job change frequency point
      • Has any documented issues of “disconnect” with sales management
      • Has shown a propensity of winning accounts away from the competition (which means the competition is aware of him/her and may try to steal this rep)
      • Recent spike in LinkedIn network activity (but this could simply be a push to get into more accounts)
      • An uncharacteristic drop in productivity that may lead to not meeting quota
      • Training or Individual Development Plans that go unfinished or without progress
      • A history at your company of easily making quota (points to a lack of challenge)


These bullets, by the way, are great indicators for Sales Management to step in when first known in order to take Reps out of this risk category.  If an HR leader is on top of this, their proactivity in approaching Sales Leadership will be well received.


2. Determine if the leaving Sales Rep is worth keeping.

Sometimes, keeping the Rep may not be worth the effort and longer-term pain this Rep may cause.  But how do you know?  Using the same sources outlined in point 1 above, look at the following:


      • Determine the Sales Management Effort Score from this tool – which looks at items like those listed in the bullets under point 1 and other factors.  Then, through weighting of the different items, a final score is determined to tell if a Rep is high maintenance or not.  This tool (along with many others) is available by signing up for the SBI Make The Number Tour where peers from top companies will learn how to make the number in 2013.
      • Look at the Rep’s value to the company over the past 18 months.  If revenue attainment of this Rep classifies them as an A player, they may be worth keeping, if they also have…
      • High competency scores that are also in the A player range.  See this post for details on how Rep TopGrading happens.
      • Determine the Rep’s ability to evolve by looking at what training they have completed or even requested.  Also look at their ability to embrace new social and marketing methods (do they use Twitter, how big is their LinkedIn network, do they consume top sales blogs like this one, are they aware of buyer personas, do they value and suggest improvement to Marketing for leads generated, etc.)
      • With Sales Operations, check their assigned sales territory.  Could it be they’ve been given a territory that “sells itself” no matter who is assigned to it?


3. Coach sales management with advice on how to coax a leaving rep into staying. First, understand what attracts a top Rep and determine where your company has gaps. Then, have Sales Management suggest some items like:



      • Changing the Rep to a more challenging patch
      • Assessing capability for and then changing the Rep to a different type of sales position (for example, moving to a Key Accounts role, or from farmer to hunter, or hunter to farmer, or from one product line to another, etc.)
      • Promoting the Rep to a Sales Management position (after assessing for the necessary competencies)
      • Promise to help develop the Rep into a different style Rep – moving from Relationship Builder or Problem Solver to a Challenger Rep
      • Suggest to the Rep that he/she will be part of a pilot to help develop and refine a new program (which would be one of the Sales Rep attraction gaps you determined that would resonate with this Rep)


4. Design a quick plan for how to replace the leaving Rep if the items above do not work.


      • With Sales management, write a customer-centric message for this leaving Rep’s customers to explain what has happened to their Sales Rep and how this is a good thing.
      • Give the territory to an existing Rep temporarily
      • Give the territory to the Sales Manager
      • Let Inside Sales temporarily handle the territory
      • Carve up the territory and give to multiple Reps
      • Activate one of the top Reps that are on the bench (you do have an active bench of star Reps available, correct?)


Longer-term improvement:


1. Ensure your hiring processes are hiring top Sales talent that fits your culture.


Don’t just hire warm bodies to fill territories and hope they will do the job.  Implement TopGrading for Sales to make your sales hiring process more intense.  This not only ensures the less capable do not get in the door, but also tends to build more loyal Reps because they have overcome the tough challenge of getting hired at your firm.  As part of the hiring process, it is up to HR to ensure the candidates have a culture fit with the company.  But don’t wait to hire stellar performers – hire them when you find them even if you don’t have a spot for them – this alone will raise the collective ability of the sales force.  This means the search for top Sales talent is never ending.  Also in the hiring topic, work with Sales Leaders to ensure they have a bench of talent they can go to when the need arises (like this situation when a top Rep is leaving.) 


2. Understand the current motivational and cultural drivers of your Sales org and modify as needed to be more attractive.


To find out what these are, use a survey of the sales force.  Be aware that if Sales is filled with a bunch of B and C players (whether in the Rep or Manager ranks) A players won’t come or won’t stay if they do come.  So if you have to hire to replace a leaving Sales Rep, make sure it is an A player or you’ll be creating (or continuing) the downward spiral of sales talent.


3. Learn the causes of Sales Rep departure and pro-actively help the Sales Leadership correct them. 


The best way to do this is through Exit Interviews.  In your Exit Interviews, be sure you ask questions around ALL drivers of a Sales Force, and balance your questions between the two main halves of Sales success: 50% talent and 50% performance conditions. Make the Exit Interview a condition of hiring, but make sure HR is communicating back to Sales that improvement suggestions are coming (at least in part) from exit interviews.  This gives the exiting Sales Rep one last chance to have their “name in lights” even while leaving.


Saving Sales from a bad 4th quarter will go a long way in branding HR as a value center in 2013.  And who doesn’t like to be the hero?  We’re only a month away from the 4th Quarter start, so begin NOW by registering for our Make The Number Tour to receive the above-mentioned Sales Manager Effort scoring tool along with multiple other tools that the HR leader can use to be a hero for Sales.




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George de los Reyes