After working with a number of manufacturers that go to market through a sales channel, the biggest recurring challenge is employee churn at the dealership or store level. Especially with national networks, many owners are watching their top sales employees jump ship to a competitor. It certainly affects the local store, but it also has a significant impact on the manufacturers.
What’s missing in the sales employee retention strategy? How can manufacturers provide support?
Whether a principal owns one store or several, the number of staff precludes investing in a sophisticated engagement and retention program. Even if they know there’s a need, the priority of implementing such a program comes low compared to the daily activity of actually selling.
As a manufacturer, the national network is larger and the investment is smaller per participant. More than that, manufacturers should consider the advantages of owning the engagement program over individual owners.
Most stores sell multiple brands of the same product. If not, there’s a store close by that has your competitors. How do you ensure that your brand is getting the most attention? Staying top of mind? Delivering the best customer experience? Drives brand loyalty?
A program that communicates consistently, vividly and personally will win you more attention from the sales channel. Make it easy to find sales tips, best practices and resources. Make sure they’re the first to know when there are changes, launches and news. Most people are willing to do what you ask, but they have to understand what that is: expectations, goals and tools to succeeding. Elevate your brand from the competitors with a communication campaign that continues to drive them back to your website and network.
All things being equal between two products, what would make a sales consultant recommend yours over a competitor? Sales people will follow the path of least resistance (what’s easier to order, service, send) unless you motivate them otherwise.
Motivation can come in many forms: recognition, rewards, benefits and status. The important piece to motivation is that it needs to be emotional, not necessarily monetary. Money may work for a while, but it just takes a competitor to offer $10 more, and you’ve lost the sales channel’s attention again. Eventually, you run out of budget.
Instead, non-monetary rewards will help you create emotional engagement, focus and goal-setting that no other organisation can compete with – you’ll have changed the rules of the game – and sales people will want to stick around to see what you’ll come up with next.
One of the least expensive but most effective ways to reduce churn is to acknowledge individual milestones. If you’re seeing a significant number of people leave after 15 months, make sure you recognise them for their first year and give them a recognition milestone to look forward to after their second year. While people are celebrating their service anniversaries with their employer, they should also be celebrating their anniversaries with your brand. Thank them for their contributions and give them an understanding of the impact they’ve made in their time with you.
While top performers are often recognised at the end of each year, find ways to recognise middle and lower performers periodically to keep them engaged over the long term, for example: progress year over year, selling their 100th unit, making the brand’s 1,000th sale. Set milestone goals that everyone has an opportunity to achieve throughout the year in order to increase the frequency and breadth of the people being acknowledged.
Finally, celebrate brand milestones. Your sales channel wants to know that their jobs have meaning, just like your employees do. If your machines now save a life every 3 seconds, celebrate it with your entire network. If you’ve achieved the sales target for a vehicle model, thank everyone because they all contributed in some way.
Let them know that your success is because of their success, and they’ll be more inclined to keep giving you that effort.