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7 People In 10 Years!

by David Brock on August 6th, 2015

Recently, I had an email exchange with a friend.  He was seeking advice about his current role.

As he described his situation, I stopped him at the sentence, “I’m the 7th person in 10 years to hold this job.”

Without knowing anything more, the problem–at least the primary problem–had nothing to do with him (or probably his predecessors).

It is a management problem — or rather a mismanagement problem!

Let’s run the math and think about the implications of this.  7 people in 10 years means average tenure of 17 months.  Research data shows onboarding generally takes 10 months (in this case it’s a very technical product set with a very long sales cycle, so I suspect it took much longer to have a sustained run rate to meet expectations).  So for 120 months, at the very best, there has been someone “productive” in the territory for 49 months!  And that’s a very optimistic case.

Think of it from the customers’ point of view, all they see is a revolving door from this vendor.  Why should they invest the time in developing a relationship, learning about the company’s solutions, when they are being “trained” to expect someone new within a short period of time.  Then they have to go through “retraining” their new sales person.  Frankly, if I were a customer, I’d just say, “Don’t bother me.”

It’s irresponsible corporate stewardship on the part of management.  Over the space of 10 years in this territory, they are losing millions of dollars in direct opportunity, and untold millions from the customers telling everyone else about their experiences with this vendor.  And it’s continued for 10 years!  (For more specifics, read A Frightening Look At The “Cost Of A Salesperson.”)

This amount of churn over this period of time (whether the churn was voluntary or involuntary) is an indication that management doesn’t know what they are doing.

Maybe they are hiring the wrong people–it’s their job to understand what it takes to be successful in the territory, identify the competencies, skills, behaviors, attitudes critical for success, develop an ideal candidate profile, recruit, hire and onboard the right people!

Maybe they are targeting the wrong markets.  Management, through the sales process, needs to identify the sweet spot, the ideal markets and customers within those markets where the greatest value is created.  Management must focus sales people on selling within that sweet spot, not wasting their time on other opportunities.

Maybe they can’t retain people, people are leaving voluntarily.  Management has to create the right culture, set the right example, put the right incentives in place.  Management is responsible for creating a work environment that attracts and retains the right talent.

Maybe management doesn’t respect their people, they  create a “churn and burn” environment.  Clearly, they don’t realized the financial impact of this kind of people practice.

There are many other things that could be driving this–but fundamentally the responsibility for 10 years of failure is firmly with management.

Churn, voluntary or involuntary, is a critical measurement for management.  It’s an indication of whether management understands and is executing their job.  What’s the churn in your organization?

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