The 5 Most Effective Ways To Retain Your Top Rural Sales Talent
Research shows that the average sales rep turnover of 34% is twice that of any other career discipline (15%).
Sales can be brutal on the frontline so this makes sense.
But continual turnover can really hurt and harm your rural business from the cost of re-recruiting, re-training, lost productivity, business interruption, management time re-ramping and customer dissatisfaction.
Being on a treadmill of turnover is not where you want your rural business to be.
We all know how frustrating it is when your key point of contact with a business you like and buy from continual changes. It creates a lack of confidence because it unbinds the bond you’ve built.
Farmers buy people more than businesses so that bond will always be strong based on the person and their persona.
Farmers are usually very cynical of corporates because these businesses often don’t look or act like them or their own so it’s natural that they have a greater affiliation with their rep rather than the rural business.
This is the same reason supermarket chains continually change their category managers so supplier sales people can’t build those necessary working bonds.
Having to constantly re-ramp new rural sales reps represents a massive drain on management resources.
The disruption and distraction from having to continually hire to fill gaps means lost sales revenue too due to a lack of continuity and cadence.
A study by CSO Insights found that companies with high sales rep turnover (above 25%) have a 6% lower win rate on forecasted deals compared to companies with low turnover (below 10%).
According to the same study, companies with low sales rep turnover rates (below 10%) had a 4.2% higher quota attainment rate than those with high turnover rates (above 25%).
So what can you do to stem the turnover of sales reps in your rural business?
Here are the 5 main things you can do to reduce rural sales rep so I hope these help:
1. Have a proper onboarding process
Research by the Sales Readiness Group found that organizations with a well-defined sales onboarding program can reduce turnover by up to 69% and ramp-up time by up to 60%.
First impressions count. When a new rep turns up for the first day they will be a mixture of excitement and uncertainty.
Your job is to meet their emotional state by fuelling that excitement and increasing certainty by showing them you have a clear plan and process that sets them up for success.
It is not enough to say: “Here’s your keys to the truck and here’s your territory. Drive up some driveways!”
Make sure they are paired up with a mentor or peer buddy that can show them the ropes.
Make sure you make yourself available as a manager in those first few months as they bed in.
Make sure they get formal product training from day dot. They have to know their product inside out before you let them loose or they’re on a hiding to nothing.
Product training is mandatory as it provides the foundational building blocks for you to build more training, namely sales training.
Make sure they have a clear path and plan of what they are doing in their first 90 days. Write it out. Make sure they are immersed to all parts of the business.
Whilst it might be tempting to get them out on the road straight away you don’t want them to burn precious leads when they’re not ready.
2. Provide a documented sale process
According to a study by the Sales Management Association, businesses with a formally defined sales process experience a 18% higher revenue growth than those without one.
A research report by Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Education Foundation found that companies with a structured sales process had a win rate of 53% on forecasted deals, compared to 43% for those without a defined process.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, companies with a formal sales process in place had a 28% higher likelihood of closing deals than those without one.
A report by the TAS Group (now Altify) suggested that organizations with a well-defined sales process experience a 30% shorter sales cycle compared to those without.
According to a study by CSO Insights, companies with a dynamic, adaptable sales process saw a 13% higher quota attainment and a 12% higher win rate for forecasted deals.
Processes protect. Surgeons, pilots, doctors and soldiers know this yet so many rural companies I teach have little or no sales process they can point to.
A proven process gives them confidence that they are following the right direction.
“Hit n’ hope”, and “spray and pray” routines won’t work. It’s inefficient and it’s not strategic.
Show them how the marketing team delivers qualified leads using a repeatable, predictable and reliable process.
Show them the structure and sequence of the questions they ask and in what order to better qualify their prospects.
Teach and train them on how to handle all the very predictable objections they will face.
Share all the success stories your product or service has delivered for customers so they have an unshakeable belief in what they’re selling.
They will need this belief when we know only 3 in 100 customers are in the market ready to buy.
3. Train your sales managers
A study conducted by Sales Readiness Group and Training Industry revealed that companies with effective sales manager training programs had a 29% higher win rate on sales deals.
According to a research report by the Sales Management Association, businesses that invest in sales manager training programs see up to a 17% improvement in sales performance compared to those that don’t.
Research by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that companies that invested in comprehensive training programs, including sales manager training, experienced a 218% higher income per employee and a 24% higher profit margin compared to those that didn’t invest in training.
A study by CSO Insights reported that organizations with a strong sales coaching culture, led by trained sales managers, had a 16.7% higher win rate for forecasted deals and a 10% higher quota attainment rate.
All the research shows that people leave managers rather than companies.
Your National Sales Manager represents one of the single most important sources of rural sales success – or failure.
If your sales manager is one who is a “command and control” / “do as I say not as I do” type then prepare for some bloodshed in the form of continual turnover.
You must treat the root cause, not the symptom.
Managers have an obvious multiplication effect whether it’s good or bad.
Focussing on training your manager first is one of the most important investments you can make.
Often a newly appointed sales manager will have been a rural sales rockstar and promoted due to the ‘Peter Principle.’
But sadly, what often got them here won’t get them there.
Often they don’t even know what they did that made them a sales success. Because of this they won’t be able to transfer this knowledge as they simply don’t know themselves!
This is where dedicated sales manager training kicks in.
You teach them how to run effective and motivating (not demotivating) sales meetings.
You train them on how to conduct proper personal appraisals.
You show them the tools to calculate proper propensity to convert in CRM.
Before you can manage anyone you need to manage yourself.
Start with your sales managers first (we have trained many using our own programme).
4. Provide clear career pathways
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 69% of employees were more likely to stay with their current employer for at least three years if they experienced effective onboarding, career development, and opportunities for growth.
A research study by Gallup revealed that organizations that prioritize employee development and provide clear career pathways experience a 44% higher employee retention rate than those that don’t.
A survey conducted by Randstad US found that 86% of employees would consider leaving their current job for a new opportunity with a clear career path and growth potential.
According to a study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), companies with well-defined career paths and development programs experienced a 7.5% increase in employee engagement levels, which is known to have a positive impact on retention.
By offering continuous training and development opportunities, you can demonstrate your commitment to your rural reps’ growth and keep them engaged and motivated.
When you show your rep they have run out of runway they can see they have no future, and when they run out of future that’s when they are more likely to leave.
What are some solutions?
– Give them special projects
– Give them responsibility before they’re ready so they can achieve stretched goals
– Give them private or discrete incentives for a particularly tough task or ask.
You can even start to groom them into mentoring or management roles to take the weight off your management team. The tops ones will revel in their new responsibilities.
Support them by asking what professional development pathway they want and then structure training and support around that.
By asking them – instead of telling them – you create the necessary ownership and accountability they will personally take for their own professional development plans.
5. Continually train your team
According to research by the Miller Heiman Group, organizations with a structured sales coaching program have a 16.6% lower voluntary turnover rate than those without one.
Research by the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class sales organizations are 21% more likely to provide ongoing training and development to their sales reps, which helps reduce turnover and improve overall sales performance.
A survey conducted by the Sales Management Association found that companies with well-structured sales training programs had a 16% higher retention rate than those without.
Research by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) showed that companies that invested in comprehensive training programs had a 24% higher profit margin and a 6% higher shareholder return than those that didn’t.
According to a study by the Sales Executive Council, salespeople who receive ongoing training are 50% more likely to meet or exceed their sales quotas.
Sales is never going to get easier and you’re dreaming if you think it will.
Sales cycles are getting longer. Buyer committees are getting bigger. And sales deals lost to status quo are increasing because so many reps can’t articulate the difference and value their products and services make.
Those rural companies that don’t train their teams means their reps will get worse, meaning you have no choice – if you want to succeed and make more sales – by becoming better.
If you don’t train your sales team they become a commodity of continual turnover draining your rural business of the necessary resources to fight the good fight in this modern day of business warfare.
You become so busy doing business with yourselves you’ll miss key deals and opportunities.
Training your team improves their confidence and conviction, it builds better morale and bonds and as the statistics above show, you’ll make more money.
Don’t be myopic and ignore training your team.
They will very likely leave you for a competitor that does.
Top sales talent is often driven by a desire to be the best in their field.
Offering advanced sales training gives your team a competitive edge, making them feel confident in their abilities and more likely to stay with your organisation.
That stability is also how you’ll make more sales.