Keeping Top Talent: How Smart Sales Managers Use Data to Stop Sales Team Churn

May 20, 2021
4 min read
With reps able to sell from anywhere in the world, voluntary sales churn is at a higher rate than ever. Discover how you can use data to prevent and prepare for the turnover of a top performer.

If you had to pinpoint the biggest challenge sales organizations face, what would you say? Sure, you need balanced territories, well-designed quotas, and motivating incentives. Those are all important parts of your sales planning and are essential to hitting revenue goals. But there’s one consistent underlying factor for each of those parts of your business—one that is even more critical to your success—sales reps. 

Salespeople are the lifeblood of your organizations—the soldiers in your army, the lead singers in your band, if you will. Without them, it doesn’t matter how you map out your territories, set your quotas, or build your compensation plans. If you don’t have a team of sellers, regardless of how strong your territories and incentives are, you won’t sell anything.

On top of that, you need strong, talented performers across your organization to hit aggressive goals, but it’s challenging for companies to build and maintain a team of top-performers. It’s one thing to let reps go after a prolonged period of poor performance. That opens up room to hire new talent. The real blow is when a top sales rep gives their two-week notice out of the blue, and you’re left filling a gaping hole in your sales team and adjusting your forecasted revenue.

Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon experience for today’s businesses. 58 percent of companies experienced higher voluntary turnover in 2020 than in years prior, according to the Xactly 2021 State of Global Enterprise Sales Performance. And the cost to replace an experienced sales professional is only increasing. 

In 2017, DePaul University estimated the cost to replace a rep at $115k. According to Business2Community, on average, replacing a salesperson in today’s markets costs three times the rep’s salary. When you take into account the lost potential sales, recruiting costs, and the time spent ramping up to full productivity, sales team churn can hit you like a sucker punch in terms of driving performance and growth.

The Critical Sales Retention Factor – Data

The most challenging part of sales churn is that it is often unexpected, leaving you unprepared, and unable to cover the gaps in performance without disruption. When a sales rep leaves, you have to adjust territory coverage and restructure capacity plans to ensure your sales team is adequately staffed and supported.

Smart sales leaders know that you must examine your sales plans and performance data to better retain talent. The more insights you have about your organization, the better you can reduce the chance of voluntary departures and prevent sales churn altogether. 

So what data should you look at to prepare your team for unexpected turnover? Here are four key data points you can use to tackle sales churn—two to better equip your organization to recover from departures and two to prevent reps from leaving in the first place.

4 Ways to Use Data to Retain Top Sales Talent


1. Hiring and Ramp Time

Why: Prepare and Recover from Turnover

What: Your hiring strategy tells you how frequently you are adding new reps to your team. Once a new seller is hired, their ramp time indicates how long it will take them to complete training and perform at the same level you would expect from a seasoned seller. 

The Impact: Your sales hiring frequency should directly correlate with your average ramp time. This ensures you are hiring at a rate to consistently maintain balanced capacity. Ultimately, this data can help you create a stronger sales team and train reps more efficiently, so they are ready to sell sooner. Should a rep leave unexpectedly, this will help ensure you have a fully-ramped seller ready to take over so you can stay on track to hit your goals. 

2. Sales Capacity & Turnvoer

Why: Prepare and Recover from Turnover

What: Your sales capacity plan is all about balancing resources. Based on your team’s average ramp time, overarching business goals, and target markets, you can determine how many reps you need on the sales floor to maintain consistent performance and growth. It also helps you uncover trends and see if there are certain segments, teams, and roles that you are experiencing higher turnover in.

The Impact: Examining your sales capacity data helps you make sure you have the right amount of sellers on your team to cover territories and hit your revenue goals—with the realistic expectation that not every rep will hit their quota. You can then plan ahead for turnover by hiring in advance to minimize the disruption when a rep leaves. Your turnover data can also help you identify areas where reps may be struggling to perform and where you may need to improve training or compensation plans.

3. Benchmarking Sales Incentives

Why: Prevent Voluntary Turnover

What: Benchmarking allows you to compare your sales compensation and pay structures against industry data. Tools like Xactly Benchmarking provide insights that you can use to pay reps more competitively and develop compensation plans that both retain top performers and attract high-potential talent. 

The Impact: HubSpot data shows that 40 percent of employees would leave their job for a 10 percent increase in pay. You need to pay your team to motivate them to perform, but you also must ensure your incentives are competitive enough to encourage them to stay.

4. Using AI to Track Churn Risk

Why: Prevent Voluntary Turnover

What: Xactly data shows that more than 80 percent of companies believe artificial intelligence (AI) was once over-hyped, but today, it provides strategic value for organizations. Intelligent Sales Performance Management Tools like Xactly Insights allow you to use your sales data to uncover performance trends for individual reps, teams, and your entire organization.

The Impact: Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Xactly Insights is able to identify performance trends and flag sellers who are at risk for turnover. This allows you to take action sooner to re-engage reps and increase the chance of retention. 

Reducing Sales Churn & Driving Continuous Growth

Unfortunately, sales churn is a regular part of business. While you can’t completely eliminate it, you can actively work to prevent it, and in the worst case, prepare your team for the departure of a top performer with minimal disruption.

Data is your most valuable tool when it comes to reducing sales turnover. Combining it with intelligent, AI-driven solutions provides an unmatched level of visibility, giving you the power to develop stronger plans and better manage your sales team. 

Want to learn more about how you can use data to reduce sales churn, improve performance, and drive continuous growth? Check out our resource library with all the best practices, tips, and expert advice from our recent virtual event, Xactly Unleashed.

  • Analytics and Technology
  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
  • Sales Performance Management
Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.