You’ve spent two years building the perfect sales team.
Through judicious hiring, dedicated training, strategic planning, a killer sales process and good old-fashioned hard work - you’ve created a competition-conquering sales machine.
Your team members complement each other perfectly, balancing out skill-levels and experience to such an extent that you start believing that this sales game is not as tough as everyone makes it out to be.
Then you’re hit with that inevitable slap in the face.
The bad news drops.
The late Friday afternoon meeting or the blank subject line email where a key staff member breaks the bad news: they’re leaving, and they won’t be persuaded otherwise.
This is the ultimate morale crusher for any sales team, especially when you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into each individual.
Employees Will Leave - Focus on the Future, Not Finding Blame
The first thing you need to do after a team member leaves is to deal with your own reaction.
Professionalism is required. You might be emotional, but you’re getting paid to manage these situations in the best interest of the business.
No matter how it feels, you can’t take a resignation personally.
It is not a betrayal or an abandonment. The days of people staying in one job for life, collecting the gold watch and a silly hat before they limp away to a retirement home are long gone. A recent study by the US Bureau of Statistics shows the average person stays in one job for only 4.2 years (and that this figure is still steadily dropping).
Once you’ve dealt with your own feelings, you need to quickly shift your focus to helping the rest of your team overcome the loss.
Your remaining team members will be faced with a series of potential obstacles and challenges.
Most pressing is obviously the possibility of an increased workload, but departures also generally affect the morale of your sales team. Individual team members may be genuinely upset by the news, especially if they’re losing a friend or mentor in addition to a valued colleague.
They may start questioning their own position with your business, especially in the face of the increased pressure they may come under.
Don’t discount the possibility of conflict, especially if the departing team member is leaving under controversial circumstances.
As your business grows, you’ll need to prepare and plan for resignations to make sure you can scale your sales operations effectively. If you’re not ready for your best staff to leave, your entire sales process could come grinding to a business-crippling halt.
We want to help you understand the key considerations of managing the resignation of a sales rep so you can bounce back fast and strong from the loss of any team member.
How to Manage the Resignation of a Sales Rep
When a key employee resigns, you should only dwell on only two of those common ‘stages of grief’:
If you feel an employee is vital to your team’s success, it’s worth doing everything in your power to convince them to stay.
Find out why they’re leaving and see if you can remove the reasons or increase their rewards. Mostly, however, people will only resign once they’re 99% sure, so you’ll need some serious ammunition to help you appeal to that 1%.
The reasons for a salesperson resigning vary significantly. Top of the list is, of course, the lure of more money - and this is also the most difficult to counter.
If you’ve come up with a well-structured and effective compensation plan, you generally need to stick to it. Making exceptions for one employee by breaking your salary structure or commission scale is a surefire way to destroy the morale of your sales team. Other team members will find out, and you’ll have a lot more than just one unhappy employee to deal with.
Communicating the news with your team
If you’ve exhausted your options and the employee is determined to leave, you need to take control of how the news is spread.
Ask them to keep their decision confidential until you have figured out the best way to break the news to the rest of your team. While they may have discussed their decision with colleagues, it’s unlikely that they’ve told everyone.
Don’t dither. Be direct. Make sure you tell the rest of the team as soon as possible. You want to prevent rumors and misinformation spreading.
This is a time for positivity.
When you announce their departure to the rest of your team, praise the leaving team member for the work they can be proud of, thank them for their service and wish them luck on their new endeavor (even if you have to do this through gritted teeth). The rest of the team will be very alert to how you treat the departing employee and any sense of bitterness will be detected - and you start to bring emotions into play. This is where your team can start to ‘take sides’, which can diminish your authority and create serious productivity problems.
Be very clear in your communication of departure dates, the handover process and which duties will be taken up by remaining staff members.
Draw up a simple exit plan with the input of the departing employee and create a set of clear milestones with delivery dates. If you have a high staff turnover, you should be developing a handover template for these situations to ensure uniformity and ease of management. Using a system like Pipedrive Contacts Timeline makes the handover of customers and leads incredibly simple and removes a lot of the potential for dropped balls.
If the salesperson is leaving for a better paying role, you need to proactively reduce the risk of one departure triggering a trickle (or even a wave) of resignations. You can’t afford to lose a batch of your team to a competitor, so make sure you tackle and fundamental issues or external lures head on.
Your employee code of conduct should make provision for this event, making it clear that a departing team member is expected not to discuss salary and compensation matters with colleagues or attempt to lure colleagues with them to a new role.
The only way to really prevent this from happening is to make sure your working environment is fun, challenging and rewarding. Sure, even happy employees will leave from time to time, but not as frequently as unhappy ones.
When a team member resigns for a better offer - take the time to analyze why this happened. Be honest, find the real reasons, and plan to prevent other employees from making a similar decision in the future.
Replacing your departing salesperson
You’ll need to move quickly to replace the departee in order to prevent overloading the rest of your team. Don’t wait to start looking, as even fairly lengthy notice periods are often insufficient to find a replacement, especially if you want to use this opportunity to strengthen your sales team by hiring the perfect replacement. If at all possible, a period of overlapping between the departing salesperson and their replacement is a fantastic way to ensure your new employee hits the ground running.
But what if the departing person held a senior position? You should always look to promote internally if it’s at all possible to do so. If you automatically start looking externally you’re sending the message to your existing staff that they do not have the opportunity for advancement inside your team - and limited career prospects are one of the main reasons people leave jobs.
Even after looking internally you may have to hire someone new, so make sure you are incredibly transparent about your reasons for doing so with any internal applicants.
How an exit interview can help you prevent future resignations
The value of a well-thought-out exit interview cannot be understated.
Make sure this doesn’t descend into an argument. The meeting is not intended to flare up emotions or facilitate a meandering chat.
This should not be a conversation. Develop a clear structure with a collection of key questions and desired outcomes.
You need to ask exactly why someone is leaving, what made them decide to do so and what would have made them stay. People tend to be more honest when they have nothing to lose - so you have a precious opportunity to ask the departing salesperson for their honest thoughts on your management, team morale, and company culture.
Hope for the Best, But Plan for the Worst
Successful employee retention is a necessity for scalable growth. You need to create a consistent, reliable sales team that functions over an extended period.
But even the best place to work will lose valuable staff from time to time.
You’ll lose some of your better performers sooner than the weaker ones, especially if your team is making waves in your industry.
There will always be competition and your star sales reps are always vulnerable to irresistible offers from other companies looking to replicate your fast growth.
Don’t take these losses personally. And don’t let a departing salesperson derail your team’s morale or your revenue growth.
A culture of respect, openness and honesty will work both ways, so even though the losses might hurt and even cut into your sales figures in the short-term, you’ll be ready and armed to deal with them for what they are - an unavoidable part of modern sales management.
If you’re prepared, methodical and composed - the short-term setback may turn into an opportunity for long-term improvements.