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Money Can't Buy Tenure

December 09, 2016 | By Mark Levinson

  • Voluntary turnover is inevitable with reps and partners, but if we create strong relationships, we can slow the pace
  • Incentives are a method of driving retention, but should not be the first and only method
  • Sales leaders must pay attention all year to the actions that drive good rep and partner retention

We hear a lot in the news about how governments offer incentives to companies to keep their offices in certain locations or base their headquarters in a particular country. The incentives are often monetary (e.g. massive tax breaks). As sales organization come to the end of their fiscal year, their concerns about voluntary turnover – for both sales reps and partners – is heightened. As with many governments, their first reaction tends to be to reach for the wallet. I am not going to tell you that monetary incentives won’t work in some cases, but most of the time it does not get at the root reason that a rep or partner leaves.

Three of the most common reasons reps or partners break their relationship with companies are:

  • They don’t believe in the mission, vision and or viability of the company
  • They don’t believe in the capabilities of senior leadership
  • They don’t believe they are valued by their manager

What can sales leaders do differently?

To be a leader, you must think in innovative ways. So, when there is flight risk, think beyond money. Don’t ignore it, but look at the other factors that can solidify the relationship. How well are we communicating our strategy? Do reps and partners understand the mission and vision? Most importantly, do they understand the role that they play in executing against that strategy and how their impact is measured? If a rep or partner has a clear understanding of expectations and how performance is measured, they become part of the plan.

Also, ask yourself whether executive sponsorship just a series of words or something that is realized through actions. Senior leaders within the sales and channel organization must continue to communicate the strategy and demonstrate how they can help support its execution. Are they out meeting with buyers, key decisionmakers and partner organizations? The answer should be a resounding yes! Sales managers and partner account managers require excellent coaching skills as part of their management competencies. This allows them to help improve productivity vs. just identifying gaps.

Turnover is inevitable. But as sales leaders, we must take action to drive good communication, relationships and action plans to prevent us from constantly paying for short-term returns. As you look over the next 12 months, keep these three retention topics front of mind and always stop and look to make sure your company is doing all it can to retain those reps and partners to continue to drive growth.

Mark Levinson

Mark Levinson is Vice President and Group Director of Sales and Channel Services at SiriusDecisions. Mark’s nearly 20 years of experience includes a wide variety of sales operations issues including strategic planning, territory optimization, compensation plans, account management, sales tools and sales analytics. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkBLevinson.

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