The Walking Wounded.
Two weeks ago in the Drift I invited readers who’d changed jobs in the past two years (or thought they might in the next six months) to participate in our “Exit Interviews” poll . With this short five-question survey, we aimed to find out why they left and what might have induced them to stay longer. Clearly, we struck a nerve with: within 72 hours 102 digital sellers and 32 sales leaders (CROs, EVPs, etc.) completed the survey. And while I’ll sharing the full results with attendees at tomorrow’s sold-out Upstream Seller Forum, there’s one big theme I want to pass along to Drift readers this afternoon.
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The conventional wisdom in our tight digital labor market is that with so much crazy money flying around it’s nearly impossible to hang onto good sellers – or even middle of the pack performers. “We just can’t compete with the insane salary and stock packages that are being offered” is a common rationalization. But when asked to choose “the best description” of why they chose to leave their former company, only one in five – 21.6% — chose “Got a much better offer.” A much bigger percentage –36.2% of respondents – said they left because of an obsolete business model, unattainable goals or both. (Let’s call this grouping “Lack of Belief.”) A whopping 40.2% of respondents left due to a lack of clear management direction, internal conflict with managers or co-workers, or both. (We’ll call this grouping “Failure of Management.”) To be fair, in a portion of these cases the company itself – or its market space – may have actually been collapsing. In other cases, the respondent who left may have been “welcome attrition.” But you can’t deny that a whole lot of good people left good companies for reasons other than money: either because they weren’t connected or engaged with where the company was going, or because their managers failed to give them good direction or intervene appropriately around conflict.
I’d like to call these disengaged, lightly managed sales people “the Walking Wounded.” Looking back over the attrition on your team, how many might you have lost over the past couple of years? What if you’d kept them all for just six more months of productive selling? Since losing a seller usually involves a six-to-nine-month period of transition and reinvestment, the financial impact of all these unnecessary and premature departures is appallingly costly.
As my good friend and mentor Mark McLaughlin commented here two weeks ago, “People join companies but they leave managers.” Money may talk, but lack of management insight or action may be what’s ultimately making them walk.