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9 Ways to Retain Your Top Performing Retail Salespeople

retail salespeopleIf you're starting to plan a business, or if you've just started a business, that focuses on retail sales, you're probably trying to structure the right kind of sales environment to attract good salespeople. Of course, getting them to start working for you is the challenge. Do you know how you're going to keep them once you've hired them? In this post, we're going to discuss nine different ways to retain salespeople and ensure you've got a dedicated team for your business.

1. Provide New Challenges

In many ways, your retail salespeople are the heart of your business, and you need to invest in their development as much as you invest in product development. Top salespeople are constantly seeking new experiences and new challenges, and in so doing, are constantly seeking the next level of success. If you can't provide that within your company, they're going to look for it somewhere else.

What's more, they need to know they're valued. While we'll get to acknowledging their success in a moment, in the context of new challenges, this means making sure your salespeople know that you're investing in them. This may mean investing money but it also means investing time. Give them new opportunities to show off their skills and give them more responsibilities.

2. Help Them Reach Goals

As a business owner, it can become very easy to be consumed by the goals of your business. To a point, you may even feel that it's only right you focus on the business' goals entirely. However, you need to remember that by helping your salespeople reach their goals means they will be much more invested in helping your business reach its goals.

The first logical step is learning about their professional goals. Are they hoping for a promotion? Where do they see themselves long term if they stay with the company? Will they want to make a lateral move within the company as it expands? By acknowledging, discussing, and actively helping them work toward these plans, you give your top performers reasons to stay.

But not everything is about work, either. Everyone has personal goals, ones that often require money. Do they want to buy a house? Do they need a new car? Are they trying to save to put their children through college? By caring about these goals, you help to inspire top performers to perform well, not just for the company, but for themselves. Aligning company goals with their personal goals gives them a reason to invest their efforts in staying with the company.

3. Eliminate Those That Regularly Perform Poorly

There are always situations in life that can affect a person's ability to work, and when a top performer suddenly stops performing well, it's worth investing the time to understand their situation and get them back on their feet. However, these are not the people we're referring to here.

Rather, this is with regards to people that are regularly not meeting the company needs for their position. If there is a minimum sales requirement, and an employee is consistently not meeting their quota, something needs to be done. Not doing anything will, inevitably, do more harm to your company than good. For one thing, it's discouraging to your salespeople that are actually performing well and reflects poorly on you as a business owner or manager.

It bears mentioning that this isn't the sort of employee vs. employee grudge match that corporations have been slowly moving away from — in fact, Microsoft only stepped away from that model in 2013. You don't want to pit your salespeople against one another in a way that risks their jobs. Instead, you need to have clearly established performance goals, and when employees can't meet these goals, you need to take action.

"Eliminate" doesn't necessarily mean firing them, although you need to be ready and willing to do so when it becomes necessary. Part of your company structure related to your performance goals ought to be a clear, well defined path that shows your willingness to try to help them before it gets to the point of firing them. We'll get to training a little later in this list, but re-training may be part of that path. Additional mentorship could be as well. You hired this person for a reason, after all, and having this path in place will also show your top performers that you take everyone's performance and position seriously. Even the federal government has similar plans in place.

4. Don't Keep Moving the Goalpost

First and foremost, what we mean by this is that quotas should be set clearly, as should the associated compensation rewards and sales territories. Planning this with your salespeople is very much making them a promise, and breaking that promise — especially more than once — is the fastest way to demotivate them, lose their trust, and lose them as an employee. What's more, you could begin to develop a reputation for your company that you do not want.

This isn't to imply that changes may not be required midstream. However, you want to approach these changes with transparency. Give your salespeople as much forewarning as possible and communicate your reasons clearly.

5. Company Culture Matters

In fact, company culture is crucial. A toxic company culture will chase away top performers no matter how well you're paying them, and having a strong company culture, especially one that has room for innovation, has some very positive benefits:

  • Nearly 15% lower employee turnover rates

  • Roughly 42% fewer sick days taken annually

  • Employees are 38% more likely to provide above-average productivity

  • Thousands of dollars in increased profits per employee per year from 10%  employee engagement

  • Outperforming other companies by more than 200%

Creating a culture that they want to be a part of is motivating, not just for making top performers stay, but for an improved atmosphere that leads to higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity, and quality of work. In many ways, this engenders open, clear communication, and career path support. It strengthens teamwork, builds collaboration, and ultimately can help you find new customers, products, tools, and methods to make your company even greater.

6. Recognize and Reward

In general, people need to be acknowledged and rewarded. It's what helps them feel valued, respected, and appreciated. In some ways, this is even more true for top performing salespeople. It takes a lot of time and energy building relationships with customers to show that your company can meet their needs in the right way, and when your salespeople exceed your expectations, they deserve recognition for it.

This doesn't always mean some kind of promotion or change in title, nor do rewards need to be offered as raises. This is another way connecting with your employees becomes important: You will learn how they feel rewarded for meeting goals. Sometimes, it may be as simple as a monthly or quarterly newsletter that recognizes top performers. Or you may host some kind of dinner or event to publicly acknowledge them in the company.

7. Keep Employees in the Loop

We cannot emphasize the importance of transparency and clarity in the way you deal with your salespeople. This goes beyond company expectations for their performance and how their performance is evaluated. This includes keeping them up to date on the way the company itself is evolving. How is the company performing? What are the company's goals, and how are they achieving the company's vision? This is another step that makes them feel valued by the company and the role they play in it.

8. Sales Support Matters

Without the right support, a salesperson can become stressed, lonely, and unmotivated. Having the right sales tools at their disposal makes their work easier, and having the right sales support team can improve their sense of team spirit, inject energy into the process, and enhance their performance.

Sales support can also come from other departments in your company. This integrated approach helps ensure the ball never gets dropped, and can help keep your salespeople as informed as possible.

9. Provide Development and Training

This is another critical way to show you're invested in your sales team, and to develop the culture of innovation. Using the same tired methods for sales and customer service can become rote and customers can tell when they're not really getting the connection they deserve from your salespeople. Continually finding new, creative ways to keep their communication focused and sales skills sharp will keep, not only your salespeople engaged, but your customers as well. In the same way that you encourage individual salespeople, send your team to seminars and conventions about sales and leadership. Ensure they're keeping up with the way consumers want to be reached, and that they're developing the habits they need to continue crafting the right sales experience.

Many times, you need to keep what's right for your business in mind, because there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the same can be said for your salespeople. These nine steps are just a starting point for understanding how to retain top performing salespeople. This will help you get to know them and to invest in them in a way that ensures your company and salespeople grow together.



The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 30 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 


Topics: Small Business, Retail, Growing a Business, Sales & Marketing

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