Closing Time

The Secret to Reducing Sales Turnover: Your Hiring & Onboarding Processes

Losing team members in any position is tough.

But losing salespeople? Way more common than you think.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, the annual turnover for U.S. salespeople runs as high as 27% – 2x the rate of the U.S. workforce – and that was taken in 2017.

More recent data from SiriusDecisions shows that almost half (45%) of B2B sales organizations have average turnover rates above 30%.

So, how can sales leaders avoid churn in a highly competitive industry? It begins with their hiring practices and onboarding processes.

In this episode of Closing Time, Amy Volas discusses the sales candidate experience, the different levers you can pull for compensation, the secrets to onboarding remote employees, and how to ensure a high acceptance rate when making an offer. The goal: reducing sales turnover and attracting top talent.

Watch the video:
Key Moments:
Reasons for high turnover in B2B sales

Sales is a unique field where there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Unlike professions like accounting, which have clear and universal job descriptions, sales roles come in various forms – inbound, outbound, SDR, mid-market, enterprise, and even global within enterprise. This diversity often leads to confusion, even within the enterprise category. People might claim to be in enterprise sales, but their actual processes reveal they’re dealing with small deals, not true enterprise-level transactions.

The lack of a clear understanding of what a sales role entails results in misguided hiring practices. Inexperienced recruiters may resort to generic job descriptions they find online, assuming they fit their needs. However, this approach overlooks critical differences in how businesses operate, their technology stacks, leadership styles, and customer journeys. When candidates encounter such discrepancies right from the job description stage, a mismatch occurs before any actual communication takes place.

In essence, the high turnover in B2B sales teams can be largely attributed to the failure to define and communicate the unique requirements and expectations of specific sales roles within a particular organization. This lack of alignment sets the stage for frustration and disappointment among sales representatives, leading to their eventual departure.

The right way to onboard new remote sales reps

If turnover is high on your sales team, the first place you should audit is your onboarding. Effective onboarding of remote sales reps has become a critical challenge in today’s post-pandemic business landscape, particularly in industries like Software as a Service (SaaS). Remote onboarding, conducted primarily through virtual platforms like Zoom, demands a new level of adaptability and creativity – it’s a task that requires careful consideration, as it directly impacts employee engagement and turnover rates within sales teams.

Amy shares a few strategies to ensure that sales reps feel valued, connected, and equipped for success in their roles:

1. Begin by having a well-structured onboarding checklist in place from the moment a person is hired (see photo below). Ensure they have all the necessary equipment and a clear agenda for their first week.

Sales onboarding checklist example

2. Break down the onboarding process into manageable segments. Avoid overwhelming new hires with a months-long, intense training plan. Instead, focus on what they need to know for their first week.

3. Establish a buddy system. Pair new hires with experienced team members who can guide them through the company’s culture and processes. This helps newcomers feel like they have a comrade to navigate the journey with.

4. Encourage open communication by hosting regular office hours where anyone can drop in and ask questions. Create a casual and non-intimidating atmosphere.

5. Organize small, informal lunch and learn sessions. Leaders can have lunch with a couple of team members, fostering connections and allowing new hires to interact with various colleagues.

6. Avoid merely providing tools like Slack and expecting new hires to figure it out. Be a guiding North star by helping them understand how to use these tools effectively.

Wage inflation and building a competitive compensation plan

Is your sales comp plan competitive compared to your industry competitors? If you want to attract and retain top talent, you need a comp plan tailored to your business strategy and the unique demands of different sales motions (such as complex enterprise sales vs. high-velocity SMB deals).

For example, if your sales process relies on teamwork, encourage the behaviors you want to see in your team by designing a compensation plan that fosters collaboration rather than internal competition. 

Your comp plan should motivate your team to prioritize customer satisfaction and retention – since satisfied customers are the key to long-term success. Implement accelerators that allow top performers to earn uncapped earnings, but always consider your cost of doing business when designing these incentives, ensuring they align with key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer acquisition cost (CAC).

Sales comp levers to pull

Recognize that the sales job market remains highly competitive, even in uncertain times. When negotiating with potential hires, begin by understanding what matters most to them. Compensation extends beyond cash—it includes equity, options, profit-sharing, job titles, educational opportunities, mentorship, and more (see image above).

Effective negotiations involve finding a balance that meets both the candidate’s priorities and your company’s needs, leveraging the various levers available to create a plan that satisfies everyone involved. 

The offer: do's and don'ts

When it comes to crafting a competitive compensation plan that reduces employee turnover, several key best practices come into play:

Timely communication. Even if all the details aren’t ironed out, it’s crucial to convey your intention to make an offer to a candidate. Silence can lead to negative assumptions, potentially driving away top talent. Open dialogue is equally essential; candidates appreciate knowing what to expect next in the process. This is especially relevant in a competitive job market, where candidates often have multiple options.

Agenda setting. Similar to sales negotiations, you should establish clear agendas for the offer process, ensuring that the right individuals are involved, and that each step is well-managed. Affirming the candidate’s priorities is key; discuss their expectations and preferences to prevent misunderstandings later on.

Transparency. Don’t wait until the final stages to discuss the compensation package. Bring it up throughout the hiring process, so when you present the offer, it’s a natural and positive conversation. This proactive approach helps avoid mismatches and uncomfortable situations down the road.


Would you rather keep your existing sales reps or hire new ones?
We’re talking all about reducing sales turnover in this episode of Closing Time.
Hey, everyone.
My name is Chip House and I’m. CMO at Insightly.
And welcome to Closing Time to show for go-to-market leaders.
Today we’re talking to Amy Volas.
Amy is a strategic advisor and founder of Avenue Talent Partners.
Welcome, Amy.
Thank you for the warm welcome. It’s good to be back.
So obviously, it’s kind of been a hot topic
ever since the pandemic and the great resignation, if you will.
But I saw that in the sales field,
the attrition rates are two times that of other jobs, in the U.S. anyway.
Do you want to break that down for me?
Why is that?
In my mind, the reason why it is, is you have a mismatch of expectations.
And the thing about sales is
it is one of those functions that
is not a one size fits all.
It’s not like, my husband’s a CPA,
and the work that a CPA
does is really easy to understand.
It’s pretty specific and it’s pretty universal.
With sales, you have a lot of different kinds of sellers out there.
So if you’re inbound, if you’re outbound, if you’re an SDR, if you are mid-market,
if you’re enterprise, if you’re a global within the enterprise, if I mean, it’s
like all these things and even within enterprise, there’s confusion about that.
I’ve had plenty of conversations
with people that are like,. Yeah, we’re in enterprise and like,
so tell me more about that.
And they’re like, Well,
we do 30k proof of concept and then the deal is 75k, I’m like,
You’re doing small deals with big companies.
That’s not enterprise.
So there’s this big lack of understanding what the actual function is.
And I think then
when folks go out and they hire, especially if you’re not very experienced
with sales hiring, it’s like,. Oh, I need to go hire an account executive
or I need to go hire a sales leader, or I need to go hire an SDR.
And then there’s this deep eyeroll of like, Oh, I got to go do this process.
So you know what I’m going to do?
I’m going to go to the Google or the LinkedIn or wherever it might be.
And I’m going to say SDR,
and then I’m going to say B2B, and then I’m going to say SaaS.
Oh my gosh, our biggest competitor, they’re hiring too.
I’m going to check out their job description.
That looks good enough.
Copy and paste it, put my logo on it and we’ll call it good.
Well, guess what?
Your biggest competitor, how they’re enabled, their infrastructure,
their tech stack, their leadership, their buyer journey.
It’s all going to be different than yours.
And now you’re using a job description that is not synonymous with your business,
your buyer journey, what it takes to be successful in the role, and now
automatically coming through the gates before you ever even talk to one person,
you have a mismatch.
So I think that has a lot to do with it.
So, yeah, I didn’t expect it to go that way, but that’s super interesting.
You know, I think.. You’re like, woah.
Well, one of
the things that I think about is onboarding
and especially onboarding post-pandemic via Zoom it’s just got to be a lot tougher.
It seems like onboarding is getting more difficult, especially for
sales reps that are in more technical, in a SaaS space like ours.
And so, talk to me about that.
Talk to me about onboarding a sales rep remotely.
When you’re talking about somebody that’s remote,
the human condition is,. I want to feel like I’m part of something
and I want to feel like. I’m seen, I’m heard, I’m understood.
I’m actually valued and I’m validated.
And so how do you do that in a remote setting?
So step one, the second that the person is hired,
have a checklist, an onboarding checklist
of things that need to be done to make sure that on day one,
they’re not a lame duck sitting there twiddling their thumbs, being like,
I don’t have any equipment.
I don’t know where anything sits.. I don’t know where anybody is.
I don’t know where to go for anything.
So day one, equipment is there and an agenda for what to expect.
So in this first week,
this is what you’re going to do and you can take it in bite sized pieces.
It doesn’t have to be, for the next six months
this is going to be all this stuff that you do.
Also, I think people get really overwhelmed and especially in earlier stage companies
or if you’re a sales leader and you are really stretched,
if you have way, way way too many direct reports
because you’re growing
faster than you can keep up and you’re trying to hire a leader right now,
but they’re not there yet.
Have a buddy system.
So one of the things that I really like is, coming through the door, I’m here
this is our cadence of communication.
These are the things to expect for how we’re going to work together.
But also, meet Chip over here.
And Chip represents marketing.
But Chip just started
six months ahead of you just went through the exact same thing
and is going to be able to help
you understand what it’s like to be in marketing,
but also be new to the company at the same time.
And now you have a comrade, so to speak, to go through this together
I also like office hours as a leader, so every week I have time dedicated
anybody can drop in
and ask me anything and it’s not formal, it’s just super casual.
I also like small micro lunch and learns.
So me as a leader, I’m going to have lunch with like two people on the team
and we’re just going to kick it and we’re going to talk about whatever.
And that makes people feel like they’re part of something.
They also get to know other people, and I’m going to be very purposeful
about who I invite to that lunch, and it’s going to be people that aren’t best buds,
but it’s going to help people get to know each other cross functionally
or across the sales team, so that they don’t feel like they’re on an island.
Also, there is Slack and there are all these other things,
but I think when it’s just like, Well, we have Slack, here are the channels,
go join one, they don’t have the use case or the context of that.
It’s our job to be their North star of guiding them.
No, that makes great sense.
And when you think about it, it’s just like,
what would you have done for yourself, right?
If it’s a perfect world.
OK, so it’s the personalized touch is important as part of onboarding
to a great experience so you can help keep your sales reps around.
So obviously one thing that’s also happened pandemic wise
is there’s been a bit of inflation, maybe wage inflation.
We know inflation in general, right?
Some wage inflation,. I assume also in the sales profession.
And so talk to me about comp specifically
and what you need to think about when you’re building a comp plan
and structuring it for your team.
You know, what works, what doesn’t work?
I mean, what’s new?
So I am a big fan of
there are levers that you can pull and depending on the demands of your business
and what your go-to-market strategy is and who you’re doing business with.
So I’m going to design a comp plan for let’s call it
super complex enterprise sales versus a high velocity SMB motion.
Those are very different things, and my
philosophy on
this is, incentivize the behavior that you want to see.
And also if you have varying parts of the sales function right?
So if you have SDRs, if you have AEs, if you have mid-market,
if you have enterprise, if you have channel,
those are all very different things.
And if you have a team based sales process,
you don’t want people fighting against each other.
And also the post sale process of
now I’ve sold it or through the buyer journey, if it goes from an SDR
to an AE to an implementation team to a CS
team, your buyer feels that fatigue and they hate it.
So if I’m designing a comp plan,. I want to make it that everybody wins.
I want to delight
and be obsessed with our customer because revenue and retention solve all problems.
So I, I care about what we get coming through the door.
I also care about keeping it and growing it.
And so I want to incentivize my team to play nice in that sandbox.
So it’s going to be step one
but the other thing is. I want them to play nicely together
and I don’t want it to be a Lord of the Flies situation,
meaning that they’re going to attack each other at the end of the story.
If you have not read that book, sorry I ruined it for you.
When I was 14, I guess.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
It’s been a
long while, but I can’t help but to not remember Piggy.
that being said, when I think about comp plans
and architecting them, it’s really about getting
very clear about your business, about your buyer
journey, about the different roles and incentivizing those behaviors.
I also like accelerators, right?
So don’t clip their wings, don’t cap them.
That’s what I mean by that.
And if they’re reaching for the stars
and they’re overachieving, you’re doing well as well.
You just need to understand what your cost of doing business
is and then backing that in.. So what’s your CAC?
These are where the KPIs come into play and backing that up accordingly.
Now, on the flip side, when it comes to compensation, yes,
the table stakes have changed.
Yes, it’s competitive.
Even though we’re hearing about layoffs
and even though the market has changed a little bit, unemployment is still low
and there are still thousands and thousands of sales jobs.
And if you want to hire
the best of the best it’s still going to be competitive for you.
So when I think about what it takes to hire great people or how to design
a comp plan, the very first thing that I find out from the candidate,
whether this is a sales leader or it’s a sales rep or
I don’t do any other roles besides sales and CS, but
this could apply to marketing, it could apply to anybody.
It’s not leading with my foot of here’s what we’re offering to you.
It’s, what’s important to you?
And it’s thinking about the different levers
and so you had Todd Caponi on this.
He wrote the Transparency Sale.
His Chapter 11 talks about different levers that you can pull.
I absolutely subscribe to that same philosophy.
And the levers aren’t just, what’s your base and what’s your OTE?
Or for a leader, what’s your base, what’s your variable
for your bonus structure and what’s the split off of that?
It’s you’ve got equity potentially.
And if it’s not equity, maybe you have options.
Maybe there’s profit sharing.
These are all different things oh, by the way,
maybe it’s title, maybe it’s paid education,
maybe it’s giving me support with a mentor, a coach.
So keep in mind, it’s not just what you think about in terms of the obvious
that is just cash comp or variable comp or
the options or the title.
There are all these other things.
And so all you have to do is show up
and say what’s important to you and note that down.
And then when it comes time to negotiate, it’s about understanding your levers
and their levers and knowing that all the levers aren’t going to get pulled.
But can you meet in the middle to bring together
a plan that’s going to work really well for everybody?
Makes good sense, you know, and I think it still seems competitive to me out there
right now.
I mean, Insightly has roles open for AE’s and you know,
we obviously want to do the best we can and hire some great people.
And so that can take a while. So
talk to me.
So when you find a great candidate, right, and you want to move forward and start
get to the point where you want to make an offer,
kind of what are the best practices for the offer itself?
The timing, the follow up, you know,
and that will ensure the highest success rate?
So time kills deals
and that offer process is the same thing.
So if you know that you want to make an offer,
even if you don’t have all the details fleshed out because you’re
dealing with your CFO or you’re dealing with HR,
communicate that, right.
So no response is a response, if you don’t communicate
and they’re at the end and you’ve put them through
a rigorous hiring process and they were excited about you
and they thought that they got the job, but you haven’t communicated
that your intention is to give them the offer.
They’re going to start telling themselves stories against you, not for you.
As much as I’d love to tell everybody, please
give people the benefit of the doubt
and seek to understand and ask the question of what happens next.
Most people don’t do that.
And then what happens
is if they’re interviewing in other places and if i’m good, I have other options
in a good market or in a bad market, that’s just how it works.
So if all of a sudden
another company that I’ve been interviewing with
and maybe I don’t like them as much as you but at that 11th hour,
they show up in a beautiful way and they meet me where I am
and they’re communicating with me and they give me an offer
that meets me not only where I am, but better than where I am.
You’ve lost me.
So communication is the first thing of, Here’s
our intention, here’s what’s going to happen next.
So it’s mapping that out.
It’s the exact same thing.
So hiring and sales, they are not dissimilar.
So the same thing that happens right as you are
negotiating a complex contract,
all of that communication, over communication, agenda setting,
proactive communication, making sure that the right people
are in the right places, doing the right things and orchestrating
that, that is going to happen here.
It’s also affirming what you’ve heard from them.
So these are the things that you told me that are important to you
and having a discussion around what you’re presenting,
because I do believe this, if you are not a hell, yes, then you are a hell no.
I believe in that adage greatly.
I do not offer jobs and I do not expect my clients to offer jobs to people
that are willy nilly that are wet noodles.
I just don’t. If you’re window shopping,. I’m not interested in that.
I want people that are excited
about what we are doing, what we represent, and they’re leaning in
and we’ve communicated every step of the way to understand
not just the work, and can they do it,
and they want to do it, and what they’re excited about,
but what it takes to snag them into the role
from an overall package perspective.
And that shouldn’t be a conversation that waits until the 11th hour.
That should be something that’s done every step of the way so that when I’m
presenting the offer, it’s merely a conversation.
It’s not an icky, emotional, filled debate
that goes south, and now everyone’s feeling bad.
It’s also why I’m going to shamelessly plug myself.
My company has a 98% offer acceptance ratio because we don’t roll that way.
Well, I mean, and you should be good at it
because you’re a good salesperson and you’ve taught teams to sell, right?
And so time kills all deals.. If it’s not hell, yes, it’s hell no.
I mean, great stuff there, Amy.
Any other final thoughts that you want to leave us with?
Communicate early and often. That’s it.
Cool. Well, you heard it first here, folks.
Amy Volas. Thanks again.
Chip, you’re welcome.. Thank you for having me.
And thanks to all of you for joining us on this episode of Closing Time.
Make sure you click subscribe, then tick the bell
so you don’t miss any episodes and we’ll see you next time.

You may also like:

See all episodes
Amy Volas thumbnail
How to Build a Competitive Sales Compensation Plan in a Volatile Market
How to Build an Effective SDR or BDR Team (Sales & Business Development Representative)
How to Use Video in B2B Sales – Tips for Outbounds Reps, AEs, and CSMs