Experiencing High Sales Team Turnover? Here are 3 Unconventional Ways to Retain Your Talent

Experiencing High Sales Team Turnover? Here are 3 Unconventional Ways to Retain Your Talent

For the last decade, high employee turnover has created a crisis in the sales world. Ask any sales team leader you know and you’re bound to hear horror stories about painful employee churn and the high costs they’re paying for it.

To fully comprehend the issue (and what sales leaders can do to retain their talent) you must first understand the cold, hard facts:

  1. Most companies spend three to four months ramping up their SDRs.
  2. According to HubSpot, the average tenure for a B2B Sales Development Representative (SDR) is just 18 months. In 2010, the average tenure was 36 months or three years.
  3. An SDR will have to grind for 18 months before even being considered for a promotion to Account Executive (yup, that’s just as long as the current average tenure). 

This means that sales team leaders are looking at just 14 months with a fully immersed SDR before receiving their two-week notice. Yikes! 

With turnover among salespeople up 25% since 2019, it’s going to take more than a Band-Aid – yes, real change – to remedy the problem. 

In order to break the attrition cycle, sales leaders will have to think outside the box to retain their top talent. Our partners at Overpass, the world’s first online SDR marketplace, spoke with leading sales trainer, Scott Marker, about ways companies can adapt now to reduce high churn rates once and for all. 

His answers may surprise you but oooh they’re good. Let’s dive in.

Know your sales team’s churn rate – like, the real number

Point blank: Estimating your team’s churn rate is not going to solve the issue.

“I’ve spoken to hundreds of sales managers and business leaders over the past several years and only one person has been able to tell me their exact churn rate,” said Marker, who is currently writing a book on fixing B2B sales and driving profitable growth. “I hear answers like 40% and 80% all the time. I knew this person’s answer was correct because it was a believable 156%.”

Marker went on to explain that this high percentage reflected the fact that the person’s company couldn’t hire people fast enough. They were losing people before they could hire replacements.

To be able to remedy churn, all decision-makers within a company must know the rate at which people are leaving the company. Only then will they be able to fully hold each other accountable for lowering the percentage. 

If you’re part of the majority that doesn’t know their team’s turnover percentage, the time to figure it out is now. 

Use this simple formula to calculate churn rate.

Divide the total number of people who have left your team in a year by your average number of employees in a year. Then, multiply the number by 100. The total is your annual staff turnover rate as a percentage.

Shift your focus to attainable KPIs (and compensate on them!)

When it comes to salespeople meeting KPIs, expectations are through the roof – and the pay is variable. 

Salespeople are often offered a low base pay with commission available if they hit their goals. However, if quotas aren’t met, the payout isn’t, well, paid out. Chasing commission isn’t a hustle many people are willing to hang on to for long. 

“When salespeople are under pressure, they don’t really want to do their jobs. Especially when they have to call and bug 100 people a day,” Marker explains. 

His suggestion? Make KPIs buyer centric.

  • Instead of providing commission based on the amount of calls made, offer commission based on how many meetings were set up from those calls.
  • Instead of offering commission for all closed-won deals, offer commission based on closing with the right customer. 
  • Instead of offering commission based on individual performance, offer bonuses to the whole team when goals are met.

Marketing, Human Resources, and Operations teams are not compensated based on KPIs – they’re paid for the relationships they build, the value they provide, and the expertise they bring to the table. The sales team should be treated no differently. 

Change your mindset from selling to people to helping people

Have you ever hung up on a cold caller? You aren’t the only one. Though part of the job, experiencing a high rate of rejection is enough to hurt anyone’s ego and even encourage unethical behavior– especially when money is on the line. 

To eliminate high turnover, sales leaders must adopt a different mindset for the change to effectively spread throughout the team. The focus can no longer be on selling to people in order to meet rigorous KPIs. The focus must be on helping people, whether they become clients or not.

Marker suggests utilizing your internal customer service, success, and human resources teams to provide ongoing training and invaluable conversations that, in turn, elevate a people-first communication culture within the company and beyond.

The bottom line

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Lynchburg Affiliate, the average cost to replace an employee is anywhere from six to nine months of that employee’s salary. This could amount to $30,000-$45,000 (yes, thousand!) depending on the base pay and commission plan.

The truth is the high rate of churn within your sales team is costing you money. To tackle this issue head on, sales leader Scott Marker, suggests finding creative ways to retain your top talent.

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Know your exact churn rate: Sales leaders, listen up! High churn within your team ultimately falls on you. To best understand how to solve your turnover issues, you must first know your exact churn rate (even if it’s embarrassing). Once you know your turnover rate, you will be able to strategize ways to lower that percentage and accurately track your ability to reduce churn as you implement new tactics.
  2. Focus on attainable KPIs: Sales becomes increasingly stressful when unattainable performance indicators are used to measure your success. With that said, having a churn-and-burn mindset is no way to keep top talent on your team. If your team’s current KPIs are creating more pressure than success, it’s time to bring new ideas to the table. Remember: Just because sales teams have been compensated based on meeting metrics in the past doesn’t mean you have to continue on the same path.
  3. Don’t sell to people, help people: Sales reps are often categorized in bucketsful of not-so-nice words. Not to be trusted. Pushy. Snaky. Annoying. *Sigh* Can’t say we’d want to be called those words on a daily basis either. The truth is salespeople have earned this reputation because they are being measured by the deals they close – not the helping hand they extend or the value they provide. When salespeople are given the flexibility to build relationships, point their leads in the right direction (whether it’s their product or not), and nurture honest communication – job satisfaction skyrockets as do closed-won deals. 

Final thoughts

Talk to your team. Ask what you can do to keep them happy in their position and in your company. Give them the tools and continued training they need to thrive. Above all, don’t be afraid to get creative in how you measure their success. High churn among sales teams is a crisis that needs to be resolved. The change can begin with you.



Lindy Hale

Lindy Hale is the Content Strategist at Overpass – the world’s first SDR talent marketplace. With thousands of pre-vetted, remote SDRs across 100+ industries, Overpass helps sales leaders hire the right fit for their team – the first time. Lindy is responsible for creating Overpass’ overall content strategy, ensuring that SaaS sales leaders are equipped with the tools they need to guide their team towards ultimate success.

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