Four steps to talent heaven

28th November 2022 |   Journal Of Sales Transformation

Four steps to talent heaven


Sales isn’t for everyone. Talent turnover is significant, which poses a major challenge for sales leaders, managers and HR.

Demand is high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers the following insights:

Overall employment in US sales occupations is projected to show little or no change from 2021 to 2031, with a decrease of about 164,500 jobs over the decade. However, the need to replace workers who leave their occupations permanently means about 1.9 million openings a year, on average, are projected to come from replacement needs.

The median annual wage for this group was $30,600 in May 2021, which was lower than the median annual wage for all occupations of $45,760.

“Sales” covers a wide range of jobs, however: 2021 median pay for Sales Engineers was $103,710, while for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives it was $62,890.

Only 39% of salespeople intended to go into sales.

High-performing salespeople are inevitably much in demand, and they have choices.


Talent turnover is expensive: Lost opportunity, retraining and hiring costs all mount up. A rule of thumb suggests that a company pays about 1.5 times the exiting employee’s annual salary to hire a replacement.

All of which means that it is vital to retain the best salespeople. However, this can be challenging: between a quarter and a third of sales professionals leave their roles every year.

Especially post-Covid, employees can feel demotivated. According to Gartner,

• 89% of sellers feel burned out
• 54% are actively looking for a new job
• 59% think management doesn’t understand how to motivate
• 67% feel leadership is overly optimistic and disconnected from seller reality

Demotivation leads to procrastination, lack of focus – going through the motions. This manifests in lower quota attainment, higher burnout, and shorter tenures.

Leaders can make efforts to address demotivation by providing personal and career development opportunities, along with achievable pathways for advancement.

Moreover, even satisfied employees are looking for new jobs, according to Harvard Business Review:1

• 41% of surveyed sales professionals report satisfaction in their role but are still searching for a new job.
• 44% of satisfied high performers are actively on the hunt.

56% of sales professionals are actively searching for a new job.

1 Nick Toman and John Staples, “How to Retain Your Best Sales Talent”, Harvard Business Review, 28 April 2022.


According to talent specialist Korn Ferry, there are various strategies available:

  • Consolidate sales talent oversight in the sales organisation (versus HR or L&D) in order to view these things through a holistic lens.
  • Have a forward-looking talent strategy and plan for the future – hiring for future not current needs.
  • Measure the impact of your talent strategy.
  • Formalise the hiring process to avoid issues such as sales managers hiring in their own image: “facts over favourites”. Eliminate subjective hiring and development decisions.
  • Hire for the right competencies, especially for sales manager roles, which differ significantly from sales rep roles.
  • Create development plans for individuals.
  • Build a pipeline of future leaders.
  • Embrace difference.
  • Ensure leaders and managers lead with purpose, articulating and role-modelling the organisation’s culture, expected behaviours and purpose.


Formalize the coaching process – it needs to be properly defined, well-structured, planned, and set to a consistent schedule.

“Coaching is a leadership skill that sales managers use to develop a seller’s full potential over the long term.”