10 Reasons Why Top Salespeople Leave

Top sales reps are a rare breed.

They're confident, charismatic, and have an innate ability to sell.

But that's not all they need to stick around. Sometimes it's a problem with their compensation plan, the politics and administrative tasks, or a poor manager that causes them to leave for another opportunity.

It doesn't matter how strong their skills are if they can't get past the red tape or if they don't feel like there is room for growth within their company.

Here are ten reasons why top salespeople leave:

1. Unbalanced Commission Structure

Commission structures can range anywhere from pure base salary with no commission to 100% commission only. Most sales roles fall somewhere in between.

Reps who are confident in their selling ability may prefer the high earning potential of a low base salary and high commission rate.

In other cases, a low base salary may push reps to close a higher volume of sales in the interim but may burn them out faster than a more balanced compensation plan.

Some top reps prefer the security of a solid 60% base salary—even when they’re smashing quota every quarter.

Related article: A Simple Guide to Sales Commission Structures

2. Constantly Changing Quota Assignments

Many sales leaders are so focused on increasing revenue or "optimizing quotas" that they forget to focus on the sales rep's experience.

If you're constantly increasing quotas, sales reps will feel that they are being overworked and leave. Instead, try to give them reasonable but challenging sales goals to hit every month.

3. Unfair Territory Assignments

It's important to create balance in sales territories. If one region is far more profitable and easier to sell into, other reps will feel they’re getting the short end of the stick.

You can’t create the perfect balance. If you insist on maintaining territories with vastly different demand and earning potential, consider lowering quota and increasing commission rates in harder areas. It may eat into your margins, but you’ll be able to retain your top sales talent.

4. Boring Incentives

Sometimes you need to surprise your sales team to keep them engaged.

Without a bonus, SPIF, or sales competition to look forward to, your sales reps may develop a wandering eye and seek a more exciting position elsewhere.

Try going beyond cash and personalize the incentives to make your reps feel seen. Consider rewards that they can enjoy and appreciate with loved ones, like an all-expense-paid vacation.

Related article: How to Plan Sales SPIFs That Work Every Time

5. Uncompetitive Compensation

If the money isn’t there, they’re going elsewhere.

Many companies learn this the hard way. You may have had a strong compensation plan once upon a time, but you need to stay on top of adjusting On-Target Earnings (OTE) to meet industry standards.

Sales reps can easily use websites like Compgauge.com to benchmark their own salary, so internal benchmarking is a must. If wages stagnate for even a couple of years, nearly half of reps would be willing to leave for another opportunity for as little as a 10% increase in pay.

6. Inaccurate Commission Payouts

Sellers need to be selling, not chasing down payroll to fix a commission error.

Small errors may seem harmless, but they can seriously damage your reputation with your reps. Nearly half of US employees say they will start looking for a new role after as top performers will lose confidence in the company quickly if you consistently produce payroll errors.

Worse yet, some commission errors take months to rectify, leading reps to feel like they’re being held hostage by the organization. Not a good look.

Related article: 5 Reasons to Reduce Sales Commission Disputes

7. Toxic Company Culture

For the top performer, the company's culture may not be what they want it to be. Perhaps there is too much drama, or no one gets along with each other.

There’s no such thing as a “perfect" culture, but there are certain aspects and toxic tendencies that should be avoided, such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

8. A Bad Boss

It’s often said that people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. That is true even for the most successful salespeople.

Most reps don’t like to be micromanaged. A boss who’s always on their back about something—be it process, tracking KPIs, or what have you—is sure to drive top talent away.

On the other end of the spectrum, a boss who is too hands-off may make reps feel unheard and unsupported. We commonly see this in poorly managed performance reviews—managers ignore reps, give vague feedback, or constantly criticize without giving constructive criticism.

Related article: How to Hire a Great Sales Manager

9. Lost Confidence in the Company

When there are too many changes in the organization, it can make it hard for top reps to adapt, especially when they’ve spent months cultivating a sales approach.

Constant change may even bring into question the stability of the company. Whether it’s true or not, top reps may get antsy and start looking elsewhere.

10. They Are Not Growing

Top reps may feel like they aren't challenged at all in their job, can't grow any further in their position, or simply put—they're bored.

Unless your organization is making a serious effort to provide opportunities for growth or advancement in the company, top reps will eventually reach their limit and start to look elsewhere.

Did you see a pattern?

Reading through this list, you may notice that the reasons why reps leave fall into one of three categories: Compensation, Confidence, or Culture.

These three things make up the framework of a sales rep’s experience at an organization. If you feel your company is struggling to meet sales representatives where they need to, in any one of these categories, consider the following questions:

Area of Concern: Compensation

  • Is the rep receiving adequate compensation for their performance?
  • Is the compensation plan design sound?
  • Are incentives aligned with business goals?
  • Are territories and quotas fairly set and distributed?
  • Are you sure reps understand how commission payouts are calculated?
  • Is your compensation plan boring?
  • How often are you making mistakes on compensation?

Area of Concern: Confidence

  • Does the rep feel confident in the direction of the company?
  • Do reps have a clear understanding of our new products & services?
  • Does the rep understand why we are changing directions?
  • Have we done a good job assuring reps of the stability of the company?

Area of Concern: Culture

  • Does the company culture align with the rep’s values?
  • Does the company culture promote learning and growth?
  • Are there people who are contributing to a toxic environment?

The Science of Sales Compensation

It's a competitive world out there, and even the best salespeople need to feel like they're growing. If your compensation plan is not meeting their needs, or if you have a toxic company culture that’s driving them away, it may be time for an intervention.

Forma.ai has gotten sales compensation automation down to a science. We’ve helped many companies design incentive compensation plans and automate away costly errors to help retain top talent and keep them happy.

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