The job market in New Zealand has become extremely competitive and many skills are in short supply. Competitors are poaching talent at alarming rates and people are being offered record rates of remuneration. “The Great Resignation” is close to hitting New Zealand’s shores.

Throughout Europe, there have been waves of resignations as life has returned to relative normality after the easing or ending of covid-19 restrictions. It’s the same in the US, where this year alone, there have been 20 million resignations as employees have re-evaluated their priorities and focused on their own mental, emotional and physical well-being. Here in New Zealand, an AUT Wellbeing at Work study found that the percentage of workers not weighing up quitting has halved, from 19.1% in May 2020 to 9.2% in April this year. Businesses here clearly need to act fast to avert the departures of valued staff. 

This raises two important questions:

How can you as a sales leader or business owner keep your team engaged and reduce the risk of churn?

One of the most disruptive things that can lessen your ability to hit your goals is high turnover in your sales team. The average tenure of a B2B sales rep is 13 months, so retention is a serious challenge. This is exacerbated by the extremely competitive nature of the job market, where employees are regularly being approached and tempted away with better offers ... and it's not always about the money.

How can you attract talent and stand out in such a competitive market?

Apart from playing “who has the deepest pockets?” you need to think about what you can do to attract top talent. A key part of any employer brand proposition is the ability to train recruits and advance their careers. ActionStep, a growth technology company which provides all-in-one practice management software for legal firms, is an example of an enterprise that used a different approach to solve a talent problem they were facing.

They decided to employ two people with little experience but lots of “raw potential” and spend time training them so they could develop quickly.

Apprento, our sales recruitment and education company, helped ActionStep to find the two young reps, and also trained one of the firm’s less-experienced sales team members. Within three months, these three had ramped up to full quota quickly and were successfully bringing in new business on their own. They are now on track to earn well into six figures each in their early to mid-20s.

How can you retain and develop a high-performing sales team?

First, cherish, nurture and develop your existing team. Improve both the cadence and quality of your conversations. Go deeper. How are they? What’s going well? Are they finding anything particularly challenging? 

Second, ABD (always be developing). Yes, there will be sales skills and process to cover, but nearly every conversation is an opportunity to reflect on a win or a challenge. You may need to develop some better questions as a leader. It’s worth spending the time on continually developing and educating your team so they feel they are growing in their roles. 

Finally, if you have to recruit externally, it is really hard. So, some basics: 

  1. If you need people next year, start now. If you want the best people, you have to engage with them over time – that’s no different from your own sales process. Whether it’s you or your internal or external recruiter, become laser-like in targeting who you’re going after.
  2. You won’t get anyone for a bargain. You’ll need to meet the market or pay more. Otherwise, consider whether you can pay better commission or even introduce an employee equity scheme.
  3. Think differently. Would Dave in accounts actually suit a role in sales? He’s a smart and friendly guy with ambition – try to understand his capabilities fully. Or what about the “up-and-comers”? Don’t discount people with little experience but heaps of potential.

What to do next?

If you would like to have a chat with Apprento about either finding top sales talent or accelerating the performance of your sales team, reach out for a 30-minute strategy session. 

Alex McNaughten is the founder of Sales Leaders and Apprento