3.5-minute read

How do you keep your high-performing salespeople from looking elsewhere for a new challenge? By engaging them and investing in their career development. Here are three best practices that will help keep your top talent on board.

1. Build a connection with the company

“When I hear about talented sales employees leaving, it’s most often because they don’t feel connected to the company,” says Brian Gordon, Recruitment Director, Consumer Packaged Goods, at Hubble.

When employees see they’re being brought into the big picture, engagement increases exponentially. Conversely, if they’re not recognized and engaged, they’ll start to look elsewhere and pay more attention to calls from recruiters. This trend is especially pronounced among millennials.  

Having a strong on-boarding program is crucial, notes Brian. This gives you the opportunity to integrate employees into the company culture right off the bat. A mentoring program is an excellent way to achieve this. 

“You need to understand that top performers are high-profile and high-energy employees. They’re eager to succeed, and you need to set them up for success from the get-go.”


Besides mentoring programs, that includes providing them with the right tools and training and offering opportunities to learn about the potential succession planning paths within the business.

Leadership style and ongoing communication are important too. Sales personnel, like all other employees, need to feel inspired by their leaders and informed about the company. 

Make your talent feel valued by getting to know them as people. Discussions with managers should go beyond performance appraisals that focus on their role and duties. Take the time to get a more holistic view of each individual.

2. Reward performance with more than salary

In the sales field, it is of course important to offer rewards that are commensurate with performance. 

“Recognition is key,” notes Brian. “It’s not always about the salary. Being smarter with bonuses and commissions is a great way to keep top sales talent happy. You need to understand how these employees think: top sellers are highly competitive and if commissions are available, they’ll want to go after them.”

In today’s environment, you can’t cap bonuses at 100%—if someone’s hitting 120% of their target, they should be compensated accordingly.

There are other ways beside salary, commission and bonuses need to be lucrative to make people feel good about their work.

Don’t overlook the value of congratulating someone verbally for an achievement. Simply acknowledging someone’s success goes a long way to perpetuating their behaviour. With this kind of reward, you’re investing in the employee’s emotional bank account.

Other possibilities for top-performing salespeople recommended by Hubble include:

  • Pairing them with a mentor who’ll help with their development
  • Granting special assignments that expand their role and develop their expertise
  • Giving them an extra paid day off occasionally
  • Rewarding the top seller with, e.g., an all-expenses paid meal with their family 
  • Being flexible about scheduling if they want to, e.g., combine their job with studying for an MBA


3. Help them achieve their career goals

“If you think an employee is a top salesperson, chances are your competitors will think the same,” Brian remarks. “Employers need to avoid situations where their employees will think the grass is greener elsewhere, especially during times when turnover is high and everyone’s looking over their shoulder.” 

One way to do that is to make sure top performers feel they can achieve their goals at their current company. 

Employers should provide clear guidelines and pathways for career advancement. At smaller companies, employees may have more opportunities to impact the business, which could be a factor encouraging retention.

Brian emphasizes that this type of employee tends to be information-savvy and eager to become well-rounded professionally. Preventing them from doing that could backfire.

“I’ve heard of HR departments blocking internal transfers for high-potential employees. That’s not a good way to retain talent. Their road with your company might stop there,” he says.

Talk to your employees about their long-term goals. Do they want to be a product manager, a sales manager, a key account manager or a career representative? Help them evaluate what they’re capable of achieving and what steps they should take to get there. This kind of evaluation is valuable because:

  • It helps salespeople see how they are progressing 
  • It shows you are invested in their growth


“Ultimately, having engaged employee’s increases productivity, closing rates and revenues for the sales department. Companies who take the long-term view with high-performing sales talent will benefit from long-term gains,” Brian concludes.


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