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How To Respond When Your Top Salesperson Leaves

Oh no, your top talent just left your sales organization; how do you respond? Your response to that situation can set the stage for the rest of your sales career. That may sound severe, but your team is watching and taking notes. Here is how to handle the situation when your top salesperson leaves.

Stay Positive

The first thing you need to do after a salesperson leaves is deal with your own reaction. Professionalism is required. You might be emotional, but these situations require you to think of your team and the business's best interests. A recent study by the US Bureau of Statistics shows the “average person stays in one job for only 4.2 years.”

It’s time to let go of the idea that top talent stays with a company for years and years and years; it’s just not true anymore. According to Bankrate’s August job seeker survey, “approximately 55% of American adults are planning to switch jobs, and nearly twice as many Gen Z.” That means at some point you will lose a high-value salesperson.

Losing your top salesperson is something that happens to every sales organization. Just remember that it’s not personal. Start by helping your team celebrate the person who is leaving. It’s understandable if you feel like downplaying the person’s departure, in hopes that it will go unnoticed, but chances are that will not work.

Losing someone on your team will create concern and even grief for your team, and invalidating that grief removes an important part of the process.

Communicate the News

When your salesperson leaves ask them to keep their decision to leave confidential until you have figured out the best way to break the news to the rest of your sales team. While that salesperson may have discussed their decision with colleagues, it’s unlikely that they’ve told everyone.

When you do decide to tell your team, don’t sugarcoat it. Be direct. Make sure you tell the rest of the sales team as soon as possible. You want to prevent rumors and misinformation from spreading.

When you announce their departure to the rest of your sales team, stay positive, praise the salesperson for the work they have done, thank them for their service, and wish them luck. This may be difficult, but the rest of the sales team will be very alert to how you treat the salesperson who is leaving. Any sense of sourness and resentment will be detected.

If you communicate the news poorly, then this could cause your team to start to ‘take sides,’ which can diminish your authority and credibility and create serious productivity problems.

Understand Why they Left

In today’s world of talent wars, it is important to know why your performer is leaving. There are two main reasons for this:

Need for More

Maybe there is something you could still do to keep them. Is it money? Opportunity? Something else? Chances are typically slim that you can “save” them, but it is worth asking.

Team Challenges

You need to know if there is a systemic problem that could affect others. It would be devastating to lose two top talents. It is important to know if there are things that you need to address that could lead to more departures.

Make their Exit Smooth

Someone who has dedicated years to your organization doesn’t deserve to be given the “pack-and-go” cold shoulder. You’ve shared pivotal moments through company wins and lows together. You’ve also probably shared several life milestones and events as well.

Take the time to treat the salesperson who is resigning with kindness. Celebrate their time at the company and make it a positive transition. Gather all the info you need on clients, pipelines, and accounts, and make sure every bit of CRM information is updated in detail.

If you are unable to convince them to stay and you want to keep the door open for them to come back sometime in the future, plant those seeds now. The grass is not always greener at the new job, and there is a chance that the new role won’t meet their expectations.

Make it not only okay but a welcomed option for this person to come back at some point in the future.  Stay in touch with them. Good people are so hard to find, so don’t let pride get in the way of getting a good player back on the team.

Compile their Data

Document any knowledge, skills, and abilities that made that salesperson productive and profitable. Asking key customers what they liked best about working with this individual will help in training the next salesperson.

Contact the salesperson’s key accounts. Ask them what you can do for them as your transition the account to a different salesperson. Let them know that if there is anything they need, they can always contact you.

Turnover can leave customers in the dark; a lack of continuity can cause confusion and decreased productivity. As you go forward, impress upon your customers that no single salesperson is their support system; there is a whole team available to assist them.

In the End

Successful salesperson 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 places to work will lose valuable staff from time to time. How you handle that situation is very important.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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