A few months ago we discussed some of the pitfalls and opportunities when recruiting sales professionals. We also touched on some company-specific cultural imperatives that bear on talent acquisition and retention.
Today we’ll look at the influence that this protracted recession is having on talent-related decisions as it relates to sales and marketing. My intention isn’t to cover the topic in depth, but to get Senior Management’s attention to some particularly worrisome behaviors and some great opportunities we are seeing especially in small to mid size companies.
It’s pretty well known that in normal to boom times, principally three key drivers of attrition push talented people out of an organization much faster and in greater numbers that would otherwise be the case. Scott Degraffenreid refers to these as 1) workload stress, 2) feelings of inadequacy and 3) disagreements with Management (It’s easier to leave than to argue as Scott puts it). With most employees including sales and marketing professionals, a new position offers the hope to advance one’s career and access to a community or home, if you will. So these drivers of attrition have to be significant to cause an employee to leave. The better the job prospects, the lower the psychological threshold to leave, and vice versa.
So what’s interesting about that? What’s important is that we see employees and employers behaving differently and in ways that may not be in their best interest in these unusually difficult times. After an extended period of RIFs in most industries earlier in the decade followed the current deep recession, jobs are scarce and talented people with them are much more reluctant to make a move from one company to another, possibly more risky situation, thankful they have a job at all.
In kind, small company Management is unusually reluctant to remove an underperforming sales or marketing professional, often coddling them so as not to lose them in lieu of bringing on a new person whose effectiveness might be worse. Also, underutilized employees stay in place reluctant to make their case for advancement to the next level for fear of being pushed out. And great talent inside a company is quite often overlooked. In a recent assessment of a sales and marketing team we uncovered a very gifted inside sales professional doing customer service.
So my encouragement to smaller company Management is first to evaluate or, better, have someone like our firm, evaluate your sales, marketing and customer service staffs. There may indeed be a diamond in the rough or two in your company. Secondly, don’t let your personal feelings for people get in the way of making the best and right decisions for your company and for your staff. If it costs a few thousand more to get the right person on task, then just do it. Don’t kid yourself that a miracle will take place and Joan Doe suddenly will have the background and talent you need for your business today. As good friend of mine and former IBM exec, Dennis Perdue, always says; “When you first feel a change is needed, THAT is the time to do it.