Secrets for Keeping Top Sales Talent

A sales force will never be made up of 100% ‘A’ player talent.  But when you start losing the percent that you do have, it hurts.  Losing top Sales Reps is bad enough – losing top Sales Managers can kill your future.  This post discusses reasons why top Reps and Managers are leaving your sales force.  It also presents something to do about it.


HR and Sales Leaders will want to get the available tool – Sales Talent Development Program. It is a detailed list of steps to take for starting your own program – and remove one reason for exiting talent.


George De Los Reyes wrote a recent post about how to keep top performers.  In it he writes about the big 3 ‘A’ player concerns: their Boss, their Territory, and their Compensation.  


Those are the first areas to look at for why sales rep talent is leaving.  If you’re losing good bosses (read COACHES), attracting top Sales Reps is difficult.  Let’s briefly look at these three as reasons why talent is leaving.  Then, I list more reasons to look at.


Top 3 Reasons Talent Leaves


  1. Boss (Sales Manager) – Do a quick assessment of the Sales Managers. They should all be spending a majority of time coaching.   This would include 1 to 1 scheduled coaching sessions.  Also, they should be spending time riding with reps in the field.  Or, maybe their time majority is spent on administration or actually selling.  Top Reps want coaches, not super closers that destroy their credibility.  If Sales Managers are doing instead of coaching, you’ll lose top talent.
  2. Territories – Top Reps and Managers want potential.  They want to know sales can be made in their patch.  Oversaturated or no-potential territories cause requests for better sales territories. If that request can’t be fulfilled, they’ll leave.
  3. Compensation – Top talent want equitable and challenging but high-potential sales compensation.  If it doesn’t match market rates, talent may exit. Some organizations pay comp that is less than the market. However, they have other factors that more than make up for it.  For example, they may have superb marketing and operations support.  This would make earning money easier.


Those top 3 reasons are what we normally hear. There are other reasons, too.


Other Reasons for Sales Talent Leaving

Here are other reasons why sales talent is leaving:


  • Lack of development – Talent is being hired, onboarded, then ignored.   Get this tool to start a development program for Reps and Leaders. The Sales Talent Development Program has 16 detailed steps for building sales talent development.
    Sales Talent Development Program
  • Sales Force improvement – An initiative is underway to improve sales. Especially if you are ‘fixing’ compensation, you could see an exit.  Repeated failures in improvement initiatives cause talent to look for more stable companies.
  • The sales force is ignored in terms of improvement – Sales talent living with unresolved problems will also look for more stability. The CRM may be in major need of an overhaul as an example of one improvement.
  • Product/offering is behind the market – Top talent does not live long with an offering that cannot be sold.
  • Too many sub performers are still around – A culture of “bad breath is better than no breath” is not attractive. Top talent wants to work with and be challenged by other top talent.
  • No available career path – Bigger challenges are needed for top talent once they consistently reach the top. Without a role for them to move up to or into, they’ll be leaving.
  • No consistent go-to-market strategy – Top talent wants to know what is expected of them.  The company objectives are broken down into Manager and Rep tactics. When the strategy and objectives isn’t clear or changes, top talent goes.
  • Sales force is not enabled – There are two main enablers that must be present.  Marketing and Operations.  Marketing enables with messaging and leads.  Sales Operations ensures tools, processes and policies are effective for top talent.


How to Fix It

The above are multiple reasons why sales talent may be leaving. There are some steps you can take, however. 


  1. Determine if you have a sales talent exodus problem.
  2. Check to see which one of the above reasons may be a culprit.
  3. Plan how you will correct these issues.
  4. As you recruit, be transparent to candidates about your plans to correct shortcomings.
  5. Ensure you are developing sales talent, especially the ‘bosses’.  Download this tool to help out – it is your quickstart plan.
  6. Appoint someone to continuously monitor whether these issues are cropping up.

Please comment below and let us all know what other reasons you see for talent exits.


Photo courtesy of > pat138241.


Steve Loftness

Helps sales and marketing leaders make the number through implementation and change management of proven and emerging effectiveness practices.

Steve leverages his Six Sigma Black Belt and change management expertise to help clients with innovative yet pragmatic solutions. His experience with clients in multiple industries gives him the ability to ensure that any solution designed will actually get adopted.


Prior to joining SBI, Steve was a partner at TDG and Sundoya, where he developed business and implemented improvements within engagements. He is also part of the international consulting community having lived and worked in Spain and Russia. And yes, he speaks both languages.

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