How to Lose Your Sales Reps in 90 Days: Retention Done Wrong

By Sabrina Balmick

In a high-volume sales environment, many companies churn and burn employees, generating high turnover rates. For entry-level roles, especially, turnover can be high as 33 percent for those in the role under 12 months, according to the DePaul University Center for Sales Leadership. Some sales managers shrug and simply go out to hire more sales people.

Here’s why companies should care about retention: in the age of the online review (thanks to sites like Glassdoor), negative employment experiences are emblazoned on the Internet for all to see. Negative brand associations can make it more difficult to attract top talent, no matter how strong your recruitment program.

With that in mind, here are a few things you should do if you want to lose those salespeople you just invested in recruiting and hiring.

  1. Make wild promises you don’t intend to keep. This starts during the hiring process, when you want to woo a new employee. When candidates mention interviewing with competitors, start babbling about how you pay more, have better benefits, and better hours. Throw in everything and the kitchen sink without checking to see whether the company can even honor such claims.
  2. Nickel and dime them. Take this a step further, and pay them only in commission, no matter how long it takes for the cash from the sale to come in or how complex the deal or lengthy the sales cycle. If they ask you what you’re paying, offer wildly unrealistic numbers. The sky’s the limit. Better outfit those reps with a new jetpack.
  3. Fumble the first day. Make sure no one’s expecting your new employee, which means no phone, email, or computer’s been set up, and your new hire’s been wasting half the morning at the security desk. Rush them through orientation, and definitely don’t allow them to ask any questions about benefits or company policies. As icing on the cake, shunt them from one harried coworker to the next without any reason or forethought as to why. Don’t bother ordering business cards for them to give to customers, either. They can scribble their contact information on a Post-It, right?
  4. Fail to train. Specifically, fail to provide training materials (like a manual, online references, or videos) and leave them grasping for some understanding about your company or products. You can also misinform them entirely by using outdated materials (who has time to update this stuff anyway?) or, better yet, none at all.
  5. Offer little to no support. Now that you’ve bypassed a good training program, you can keep the turnover train chugging along by ignoring your new hire entirely. You’ll be left with a bewildered employee who hasn’t the first clue how to do the job properly, and will take much longer to ramp up. Some managers like to think of this as the “sink or swim” approach. After all, you’ve got your own work to do, and if they’re such good sellers they shouldn’t need any support, right?
  6. Micromanage them out the door. On the flip side, some managers prefer to smother their employees with too much attention to make sure they leave as quickly as possible. Ask to be copied on every. Single. Email. Hover over their shoulder when they’re working to make sure they hit those sales numbers. Better yet, take the phone when they’re on a customer call and close it yourself, just to show them that there’s nothing to selling. Bottom line: it doesn’t matter that you’ve hired the best and the brightest–they have to work your way or the highway.

Now, if you’re one of those managers committed to keeping your top talent, do the exact opposite. In the end, time and attention during the first 90 days of your new employee’s life with your company, will ultimately pay dividends not only in short-term revenue generation, but long-term profitability.