“High sales churn? That’s another fine mess you got yourself into” by Martin

“High sales churn? That’s another fine mess you got yourself into” by Martin

I once inherited a sales churn of 170% per annum in a sales team of 70. It scared the living wits out of me. I had to change my shorts more than once.

The reasons were all down to management – or more accurately, the lack of it. It’s an experience that burned deep into my very soul. It’s made me hyper-aware of sales churn ever since, and the shame of it is it’s still happening all these enlightened years later.

I talk to good sales people every day who are about to leave their employment, and the reasons are few and very common. Are you SURE you’re not doing this to YOUR sales team? Honest?

Common reasons why sales people move on:

  1. Managers aren’t clear about what they want. They set conflicting targets and KPI’s. They ask for calls per day, appointments per day, pipelines, sales. Managers try to keep people on their toes, so have campaigns they don’t really mean. It’s not big and it’s not clever.
  2. Managers manage the team and not individuals. They set common goals that fail to recognise individual skills, experiences and attributes. Yes, manage activity, but tweak it for each person and keep it consistent.
  3. Managers keep changing the rules and commission schemes. Every time they have a ‘problem’ poor managers change the rules in a vain attempt to get the behaviours they want, but every change adds a complication and a loophole that bright sales people will try to exploit. It’s not their fault. They’re working with your rules!
  4. Managers don’t know how to use sales targets as a tool. Targets are often used as a blunt instrument that are counter-productive. Just increasing sales targets after a poor month will not help. It will make things worse. Don’t do it.
  5. Sales People get orphaned. Their managers are too busy filling in forms, inventing forms, asking for information, then asking for more information. they get caught up on internal detail. Oh and they never do much with the information anyway, and the sales people know it, so they start to make it up to save time.
  6. Sales people don’t enjoy field accompaniment with their manager. Their sales manager is often a smart arse who takes over the sale. The sales person learns nothing and is made to feel an idiot.
  7. Managers don’t do what they say they will do. Managers back out of appraisals, reviews, field accompaniment and meetings at the last minute because they take time and thought – and the manager’s just managed to find an emergency that’s so important it justifies an escape route in their own mind. Trouble is, it happens all the time, and sales people notice.

There are loads of other things, but from my experience at talking with disenchanted sales people, these are the most common. They’re all quite easy to fix, or just to avoid – for a start, stop making so many promises that will just make things worse when you break them. The fact that you meant it when you said it is not a defence.

Sales people, even average sales people, are not thick. They’ll work you out if you try to dupe them. The good ones will just come to that conclusion earlier and be off first chance they get.

Remember, there are people like me with no qualms about approaching your sales people to join another team. If you’re silly enough to let that happen, I’m silly enough to exploit it. If you handle people right, you make my job lots more difficult because I won’t be able to prise them away.

Happily, lots of the time, sales people take my call because they’ve been poorly managed, and I know people who will manage them better.

It’s not in my interests for you to pay any notice, and history tells me you probably won’t.

Good luck anyway.

Martin Ellis

Laurel and hardy



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