He made more money than your sales leader. He hit the top commission rate. Yet, he left.


Why did you lose your top rep?

Here’s a secret: It’s not all about the money. In the sports world, we often hear this from athletes. Yet, we rarely see this happen. In sales, it’s a different story. It’s not just about the money for your top reps.


We regularly survey sales forces. Their number one complaint is lack of coaching from their boss. Reps don’t feel they get the care and feeding from their direct supervisor. They leave because they don’t feel the love. Want proof? Download the Sales Exit Interview Guide. Interview recently departed reps. You’ll be surprised what comes out ahead of sales compensation.


Why Exit Interviews Fail

Exit interviews fail to give companies insight for 2 reasons:


1. They don’t happen  

Usually companies let their people walk out the door on their last day. Last paycheck is provided. Badge and PC turned in. See ya.

You are losing an opportunity to improve your work force. Exit interviews can teach you about:


  • Management concerns
  • Training needs
  • Lead generation challenges
  • Sales process issues
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Compensation problems


Why continue treating symptoms when you can address root causes?


2. They’re Done In-house 

It’s difficult to extract meaningful information if exit interviews are done in-house. Consider your options:


  • Direct manager – The #1 reason people leave is because of their manager. Good luck getting valuable insight if he’s doing it.
  • Indirect manager – A peer of the direct boss is giving the interview. Might as well have your manager in the room at this point. Low probability of confidentiality.
  • HR – Let’s face it. Reps do everything possible to steer clear of HR. Suddenly, they’re going to open their hearts to them? HR keeps personnel files. Gives references for future jobs. No chance.  


We’ve reviewed hundreds of exit interviews conducted by companies. Conclusion: Lots of fluff. People are unlikely to be honest if they are talking to one of your employees. Does your interview look like this?


Need A Quick Fix?

No time or resources to implement exit interviews? Here are 3 easy things you can do to improve employee retention immediately.


1. Coaching – We see so many managers investing in their lowest performers. “If I can move Tim from a ‘C’ to a ‘B,’ it would be huge.” Would it? You don’t play with the worst golf ball in your bag. You don’t bat your pitcher in the cleanup spot.


‘C’ players don’t make the number. Instead of wasting valuable time at the bottom, over serve the top. The best athletes in the world have coaches: Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams. Why? The best want coaching. It’s a mistake to think your ‘A’ players don’t want your time and attention. Nobody gets better by being ignored.


CEO Tip – Spend  a ½ day in the field with your top reps twice/quarter. Give them coaching and feedback on their sales calls. Not sure how? Read this before heading into the field.


2. Recognition – Ever performed in front of a crowd? Did the applause and cheering pump you up? People need the love. It’s more than a paycheck. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating their efforts.


The Human Capital Institute conducted a study on the Value & ROI of Recognition. It showed companies rewarding beyond compensation had happier employees with better results. Nobody wants a thankless job.


Tip for the CEO – Make performance public. Do you have a scoreboard showing the stack ranking of your sales team? Being publicly recognized as the ‘top rep’ is a huge point of pride for sales reps.


Bonus Tip – The picture at the right shows a weekly ‘Bell Ringing’ ceremony atOperative Hero Shot resized 600 PeopleAnswers. Every Friday, new deals get recognized in front of the entire company. The rep gets to ring the bell and talk about how he won the big deal. He then gets a round of applause from the entire company. Easy and Effective. You can start this next week with your sales team.


3. Environment – Does your workplace look and feel like a morgue? Times have changed. Nobody wants to work in an office with bare walls and no atmosphere. You’re a growing company with young, vibrant employees. Step it up!


Fortune recently released its 2013 list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. Take a read through some attributes of the top 10:


  • “Sports contests”
  • “Creative anarchy”
  • “Talent shows”
  • “Red zone report”
  • “Gift cards”


Yes, Google spends exorbitant amounts of money recognizing their employees. Guess what? You can do any of the above items for almost $0. The NFL is often dubbed the ‘No Fun League.’ Don’t let your company fall victim to this.


Tip for the CEO – Create an Events Team. Make it their charter to develop quarterly events for your company. Include a few top reps.


The picture at the right is from another SBI client, Operative Media. Twice/year, they havedescribe the image the Operative Olympics in Central Park. Team uniforms mandatory. ½ day of sports, mental challenges and laughs. The day ends at a local watering hole for a few beers and great stories. The ROI with the team is 100X the cost of the event.


Call to Action

Exit interviews are a highly underrated way to diagnose issues in your sales force. If you aren’t doing them, you’re missing an opportunity to keep your best people happy.


Exit interviews or not, give the 3 quick fixes provided in this post a try. If you decide exit interviews are for you, best case is to bring in a 3rd party.


Want to do this yourself? The Sales Exit Interview Guide is here for the taking. You can start today.


Good luck. 




Ryan Tognazzini

Works closely with B2B companies to solve strategic business problems so that they will make their number.
Learn more about Ryan Tognazzini >

Ryan joined SBI in 2010 as a Senior Consultant. Since then, he has worked extensively with emerging growth technology companies, including SaaS, enterprise software, systems integrators and OEMs. Additionally, Ryan works alongside numerous private equity investors, performing both sales and marketing due diligence and organic growth initiatives inside their portfolio companies.


Among a long list of accomplishments, he developed and implemented a sales and marketing strategy that resulted in the turnaround of a $1B IT integration clients. He executed organic growth initiatives to help a $100M software company achieve 40%+ year-over-year growth in preparation for an IPO. And he worked with a $1B enterprise software client to transform their sales and marketing go-to-market strategy for their cloud and SaaS offerings. Not surprisingly, in 2014 he was voted SBI Employee of the Year by his peers.


Read full bio >