Retaining Top Sales Reps Now is More Important Than Ever...and Here’s How!

Jul 22, 2020
3 min read
Sales turnover is challenging at any time. Here are some tips to help you design sales plans to retain top sales reps during times of disruption and in the long-term.

Sales turnover is challenging at any time. Unfortunately, it’s something most organizations are familiar with—with the average sales turnover rate sitting at 35%, according to HubSpot. Typically, it occurs at the beginning, middle, and end of the year, which makes retaining top sales reps crucial year-round. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made sales rep retention even more critical. Surprisingly, in a time when you’d think most individuals wouldn’t necessarily be looking for new roles, Forrester Research found that 65% of companies are experiencing unwanted sales attrition.

What’s to blame for this unexpected trend? It’s a combination of things. Forrester also reports that company pressure to succeed is at an all-time high, and along with it, C-level tenure and Board patience is dwindling. Combined with economic uncertainty and global disruption, it’s not an easy situation for any business to navigate—especially if you’re blindsided by a top performer’s two-week notice.


Being a Sales Disruptor Amidst Disruption

Understanding the Impact of the Top 20

Before you can begin to implement sales retention strategies into your plans, you have to understand the breakdown of your sales performance. Consider this: according to Xactly Insights data, only 41% of sales reps make their quota, yet 92% of companies achieve their overall corporate objectives. 

This falls in line with the old adage that 80% of your revenue comes in from approximately 20% of your sales force. These high performers are driving the bulk of your sales, and losing one of them is a big blow at any point in time. That makes retaining top sales reps all the more important. 

Here’s how you can make sales rep retention a priority when unexpected disruption hits and as you adjust your plans going forward.

Sales Rep Retention is Tricky Right Now

Here’s the problem: it can be challenging to find the right balance to retain top sales reps and make decisions that are in the best interest of the business. First and foremost, when disruption hits, the most important thing is to reconsider your definition of high performance. 

Prior to the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, you set quotas and goals on what was possible at that time. In a market where it’s no longer achievable, you have to re-evaluate your sales and incentive plans. You have to adjust your goals and sales team expectations to the new reality. 

For example, maybe it’s realistic that your team could achieve 80% of your original goal—so you may consider reducing quotas to that same level. But in order to encourage reps to exceed, you may add accelerators to push performance above that 80% adjusted goal. 

Most importantly, regardless of your plan adjustments, it’s important to realize that in today’s fast-paced world, complacency is a kiss of death. You must acknowledge the need to adapt plans and emphasize this to your sales reps when changes are made: we know it’s harder to get to 100% of your goals, and we are designing achievable incentives to motivate you to get there.

Retaining Sales Reps in the Long-term

Sales rep retention should be a high priority not just today as we navigate our novel circumstances and economic disruption, but all of the time. It’s critical to take action to retain your top performers before attrition becomes a reality. 

It’s important to consistently watch as the world is changing and adjust your sales plans based on the current conditions in the short-term. In the long-term, sales rep retention should be a considerable part of your strategies. Start by examining your top sales reps’ behaviors, quota attainment, and overall performance. How can you encourage those same behaviors and that level of performance in other reps?

You also need to identify the top 20% of high performers that you cannot afford to lose. Even if that top performer is only operating at 80% capacity, how does it compare to someone not performing within that top 20%?

The Importance of Continuous Sales Planning

This is where continuous sales planning is absolutely essential now more than ever. When you are consistently analyzing and optimizing your sales plans, you arm yourself with the flexibility and up-to-date data insights to adjust in the face of disruption. And you ensure you are always on the best path to reaching your organizational goals. 

When you combine continuous sales planning with a strategic optimization tool like Xactly Insights, you can then analyze sales performance more intimately. Insights leverages 15 years of real-world data to help identify changes in rep performance and flag those at risk for attrition. This gives you more time to take action to retain top sales reps. 

Most importantly, when it comes to retaining top sales reps, you have to focus on the people within your organization. Without them, you can’t provide a high-quality customer experience or operate effectively. Leaders must think compassionately and practice empathy towards their teams. 

We’re all navigating the same storm together but in different ships. The world is changing around us quickly, and we can’t expect our sales teams to perform as if they haven’t. Accepting that is the first step to driving real performance and putting your team on the path to success

  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
  • Sales Planning
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.

Erik Charles
Erik W. Charles
VP, Solutions Evangelist

Erik W. Charles is an accomplished professional with more than two decades of experience in Marketing, Consulting, and Product Evangelization.