3 Ways to Engage and Retain Salespeople Before They're Hired

Not everyone is cut out for sales – and that's truer than ever. Today's salespeople are in a category all their own. Companies are looking for the most highly skilled professionals to add to their teams, demanding salespeople be entrepreneurial, determined, tech-savvy, and great communicators.

Unfortunately, the challenge isn't only in finding top sales talent. Holding onto that talent is difficult, too. A report from SalesFuel released earlier this year found that 69 percent of millennial sales reps have already voluntarily left an organization.

High sales turnover isn't necessarily the result of low engagement. According to a report from Quantum Workplace, "The Sales Talent Shortage: How Organizations Can Attract and Retain Top Sales Talent," sales employee engagement sat at a record high for the second year in a row at the end of 2016.

The contradiction of high engagement and low retention raises some obvious questions about how recruiters change the situation. The simplest answer is that attracting, engaging, and retaining employees needs to begin with the very first moment of interaction during the recruiting process.

Here are a few tips:

1. Paint a Picture of Candidate Success

While it's easy for everyone to see how a top salesperson's strengths complement a company's mission once on they're on the job, it's more challenging to give top sales candidates a glimpse of the future they could have at your company before they're hired.

Challenging or not, this is a critical step if you're aiming to set your organization above competitors in the eyes of talent. According to the Quantum Workplace report, the No. 1 driver of engagement for salespeople is the ability to fully use their strengths at work. You can prove to sales candidates they'll have the opportunity to do just that at your organization by offering detailed examples of how their specific strengths, talents, skills, and experiences will help them excel. Tie a candidate's talents back to your company's goals, missions, and values to help them see exactly how they'll contribute to a larger cause.

As a next step, you can have candidates meet with current team members who hold the same qualities and have followed similar paths. If candidates can make strong personal connections with potential colleagues, they'll be able to more clearly picture their futures with your company.

2. Showcase Your Most Valuable Resource: Employees

Companies get bad raps when they put quotas and customers before their employees. Quality salespeople will stay away from companies that have such reputations because they know that truly great performances require immense amounts of support, teamwork, and motivation from company leaders.

Experienced salespeople know exactly what a supportive team looks like, and they aren't waiting until the interview to find out how well a company treats its employees. Employers and recruiters need to be transparent about employee engagement and investment throughout the entire recruitment process.

Start with the job description. Share why learning and development is important to company leaders and your team. Explain what opportunities the sales team has already taken advantage of and what they hope to accomplish in the future.

Most importantly, take a personalized approach by having your team record video testimonials. Ask current employees to share how peer-to-peer and manager-to-employee coaching has not only enhanced their careers, but made them feel like integral parts of the team rather than just another number on a quarterly spreadsheet.

3. Cultivate Trust in Your Leadership

Salespeople tend to have entrepreneurial spirits. This is what gives them the self-motivation, determination, and drive to make the next sale. However, company leaders often mistake this spirit for a desire to work completely independenly. That's not really the case. In fact, one of the top three engagement factors for salespeople is trust in leaders, according to the Quantum Workplace report.

Let sales candidates know they can trust leadership with both their accomplishments and their struggles. Ask what roadblocks they ran into at previous jobs, what changes they're hoping to find in a new company, and what personal goals they're hoping to hit. Once a candidate has opened up, share a step-by-step description of how you'll help them achieve these goals with your company.

Reassure sales candidates that each one of your current team members – including you – has also struggled with something at some point along the way. Prove that your company has a teamwork culture where managers and coworkers help team members through their challenges.

Dan Harris is workplace insights analyst at Quantum Workplace.