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How to Keep Your Sales Team Intact During the Great Resignation

Many salespeople are now looking for new jobs or for greener pastures. But you can retain them with the right balance of fast pay, company culture and teamwork.

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The ongoing health crisis has changed the way we work, possibly forever. As the world stepped away from their offices and into their homes, people had a collective realization about the benefits of remote work. It’s more flexible, potentially giving employees more time to travel, spend time with family and do what they love. 

All these realizations, combined with a nearly global re-evaluation of priorities, is leading to what Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University termed "the Great Resignation." In other words, people are quitting and pivoting, and a lot of businesses can’t keep up. 

What is "the Great Resignation?"

"The Great Resignation" is exactly what it sounds like — people are choosing to leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers. At the onset of the health crisis, people were holding onto their jobs for dear life (even when hours and conditions were terrible) for fear of not being able to find other, perhaps more fulfilling employment as the world shut down.

Related: How to Keep Your Most Valued Employees During the Great Resignation

Now, over a year later, Americans are simultaneously more confident in their ability to find work and more concerned about their quality of life. They are hitting the job market and looking for roles that make them feel fulfilled. They also want jobs that allow time and energy for out-of-office activities that bring them joy. 

No industry is immune to the Great Resignation, but salespeople may be particularly susceptible to the phenomenon. This can be attributed to many factors including the timing of their commission payments, a lone-wolf mentality that can quickly lead to burnout and a lack of attachment to their teams. 

Here are four ways that you can keep sales people motivated, energized and loyal to your sales team. 

1. Make your team work as a team

As a lot of people leave their jobs in search of a more relaxed daily life or a better role, it’s becoming more important than ever to create a work environment where people feel connected to their job, their co-workers, and their boss. This can be particularly difficult with sales teams. Because salespeople might often be focused on maximizing individual earnings, there is a tendency to adopt a lone-wolf mentality. 

Related: How to Attract Smart Millennials Through Better Job Descriptions

To make sure this mentality doesn’t persist and have a subsequent impact on employee engagement, it might be a good idea to give your sales team a project on which they need to collaborate. This can be anything from a major sale in which commission is split between multiple people to team-wide strategy development sessions. 

Making your team work as a team will help them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. A togetherness mentality can improve motivation (and subsequently improve new opportunities and overall sales numbers), but more importantly it might help each individual team member feel connected to your business and help them resist the urge to take their talents elsewhere. 

2. Update the way you pay

Salespeople want to be paid differently than most of them currently are. A recently released poll of almost 700 sales team members conducted by payroll platform Everee found 56% of respondents don’t get their commissions for at least two weeks. Four out of 10 get their commission monthly or quarterly.

Unsurprisingly, 64% of salespeople said they would prefer to get commissions within a week. It seems obvious employees whose pay comes mostly from commissions rather than a regular salary would (at minimum) desire the certainty of faster commission payments. As it is, working on commission can be high risk, because payment is based on factors that are sometimes out of a salesperson’s control. The long time it takes to actually receive earned commissions increases the risk and uncertainty involved in a sales job. 

There are platforms out there that make it easy to implement weekly or even daily commission payments for your sales team. It stands to reason that if salespeople are paid commissions daily, they might give their best effort each day to consistently bring home more money. If they’re paid weekly or monthly, they might focus efforts on a good sales week overall but feel less motivated some days than others. 

Ultimately, paying your reps quickly is one of the best ways to retain your most talented sales reps and attract new hires during an unprecedented labor shortage. The promise of faster pay will improve motivation, leading to increased sales and higher overall effort. 

Related: 4 Key Steps to Motivate Employees to Finish Work Projects

3. Combine work and play

The term company culture is thrown around a lot, but don’t let that diminish its importance when thinking about your sales team and its wellbeing. The hustle-and-grind mentality that used to pervade the business world is becoming more difficult to maintain in the wake of the Great Resignation. 

To avoid unhealthy competitiveness (or sales fatigue-induced laziness) among your sales team and create a culture where everybody actually enjoys going to work, you can introduce fun, leisurely activities outside of the office. Bonus points if you can find activities that help with team building such as scavenger hunts or escape rooms.

4. Ask them what they need 

Put simply, it’s important to make your employees feel important. It often comes down to work-life balance and mental health. When you prioritize both the personal and professional needs of your team, they will inevitably feel more satisfied at work, but sometimes it is hard to know what those needs are exactly. 

Ask your team to come up with a list of needs they have as a collective, but make sure you also pay attention to the wants and needs of each individual team member. Working from home might be a top priority for some. Others might want slightly more flexible scheduling or stocking the office pantry with fruit snacks. Regardless, there are often very small changes you can implement that will have a big impact on employee turnover and overall morale. 

Related: 5 Kinds of Lazy Employees and How to Handle Them
John Boitnott

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John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.