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Attracting and retaining top sales talent

By Dave Egloff | April 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

SalesSales Effectiveness and EnablementSales Strategy and Design

There is a common saying — leaders need to attract and retain top talent.  Clearly, this is a great practice.  However, when the labor market is saturated and the bid for talent is hyper-competitive, attracting and retaining talent becomes a strategic imperative.

While all leaders are facing similar challenges, sales leaders are forced to face some unique challenges including:

  • Customer relationship risk due to account management turnover
  • Internal conflict and complexity caused by uncovered sales territories
  • Stalled opportunities and pipeline as sellers are in transition (leaving or onboarding)

These are just a few of the challenges.  Ultimately, the net result is that an organization’s sales goal may be missed.  To avoid these challenges, sales leaders needs to focus on:

  • Attracting talent to limit the risks caused by open sales positions
  • Retaining talent to contain sales costs and avoid regrettable turnover

Attracting Sales Talent

Gartner’s sales talent benchmarks indicate that compensation is the most important attribute in attracting sales employees, followed by work-life balance and stability.

Recently, Brian Kropp, Group Vice President of Gartner’s HR practice said that workers expect a significant compensation increase (over 15%) to switch companies.  This is ultimately a compensation premium to recruit top talent, and can cause major problems:

  • Pay premiums cause pay parity issues between new hires and longer tenured employees
  • Rising sales compensation increases the cost of sales and negatively impacts profit margin

When sales leaders are attracting new talent, they will have to pay the compensation premium or lower the standards to attract more junior talent.  While figuring out which option is best, sales leaders should also highlight the internal programs that help sellers maintain a work-life balance and promote the consistency of the organization (if it exists).

Retaining Sales Talent

One obvious mechanism to limit the pains and cost of attracting sale talent is to retain your sellers, especially your top talent.  To help retain sellers, sales leaders should connect sellers to their employee value proposition (EVP).

Gartner describes the EVP as how an employee perceives value by working in an organization across five attributes:  Opportunity, People, Organization, Work and Rewards.

Sales leader have a direct influence on all of these elements.  Specifically, they can:

  • Ensure development opportunities exist
  • Fill open positions from their existing talent pool
  • Improve manager quality & coaching
  • Help promote work-life balance
  • Build a pay-for-performance culture

The ultimate benefits are in seller engagement.  When a seller is highly satisfied with their EVP, their responses to High Discretionary Effort and High Intent to Stay improve by nearly 3x.  That’s a significant improvement that can easily reduce risks and expenses.

Sales leaders must make seller attraction and retention a priority to avoid sales execution issues that put goals at risk.  Fortunately, sales leaders have many levers within their control to improve both attraction and retention.


The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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