Do Your Sellers Have A Future?

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Too many leaders seem to have given up. They take high attrition rates/turnover as “the way things are.” They manage strategies around low tenure (11 months for sellers and leaders). Low engagement, the great resignation, quiet quitting are now business constants that leaders have to manage around.

Some give excuses, “Well GenZ is like that, they are very mobile and won’t stay with any organization very long…..” But then we see the same issue with every other generation. Too many have given up.

At the same time, I seldom hear leaders talking about the implications of this. It represents millions of cost–recruiting, onboarding, and so forth. More importantly, it represents tens of millions of opportunity cost! Buyers don’t wait for our sellers to get up to speed, they just buy from someone else. It takes time for sellers to ramp to full productivity, so there’s huge lost opportunity during that time. And then, if you have a complex sale that has a longer buying cycle, one wonders how you possibly build a pipeline and manage these long cycle opportunities effectively.

It’s both a business crisis, and people crisis! Yet too many leaders shrug their shoulders saying, “that’s just the way things are, these days!”

Yet, it isn’t! And data from high performing organizations demonstrates this. Part of why they are high performing is they recognize the value of talent, working to retain people, creating places where they feel appreciated, heard, recognized. They create futures for those people, focusing on developing them not just for today’s challenges, but offering career paths in which they can grow and contribute at larger levels.

How do we fix this? How do we start to recognize this is unacceptable, that the opportunity cost is too high and that we are underperforming our potential, as long as we accept these levels of turnover?

It’s not that difficult. We have to create places where people want to work. Where they feel heard, included, that they matter. Where we move beyond the lip service, “People are our most important asset,” to making that real.

Business writers, going back at least a century, have said things like, “Culture eats strategy for lunch!” We need to create and sustain cultures that actually value people. But, “changing culture is a long game. It’s not an on-off switch.”

Part of what everyone is looking for is a future. They look for how they can grow, develop, contribute at a higher level. They want to know they have a future.

In my very first selling job, as I was being recruited, I was interested not only in the job, itself, but was there a “career path?” As I moved into management, a key thing I learned was that we had to focus not just on people’s current performance, but we had to look at their future potential and how we might develop them to grow in the organization.

We recognized not everyone wanted to go into management (actually, I learned few really wanted to be managers.). They wanted to grow their careers as individual contributors, perhaps progressing from SDR to BDR to AE to Account Manager to Global Account Manager to something else. Or they may want to look at moving into other roles, perhaps sales enablement, sales op, channel/partner development, or even marketing or business strategy.

One friend who started his selling career at the same time as I, eventually moved into a M&A Lead. He was responsible for managing major acquisitions–working with the other company, our company resources, leading the team effort to a successful outcome. In his career, he has managed billions in successful acquisitions.

In the past two years, of all the organizations I’ve worked with, I’ve only seen two that talked about career pathing, coaching people not only on current performance, but how to move into future roles.

The absence of these conversations is tantamount to telling our people, “You have no future with our organization other than your current job….” We have abandoned these conversation, leaving it to our people to figure out. And their only alternative to develop and grow is through moving to another company.

It seems we spend a lot attracting people to “come work with us……” but invest nothing in, “continue to build your career with us…..”

Such a monstrous loss of talent and opportunity! It really represents management malpractice–not just in how they lead people, but how they maximize the ability of the organization to achieve it’s long term goals.

Do your sellers have a future with your organization? Are you helping them understand this and coaching them in how to move into greater levels of contribution?

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