The cost of sales turnover is high. It’s no secret that the first 90 days are critical to a new hire’s success, especially in the demanding world of sales. But it’s also true that many companies struggle to get onboarding right—or invest in it at all. So when an increasing number of reports point to insufficient onboarding as a major factor in high salesforce turnover, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots. If turnover is a problem in your organization, onboarding should be part of your solution. 

No one likes to see a team member go, especially if it’s a great salesperson. But there’s also a hefty price tag associated with losing and replacing a sales rep, from acquisition costs to wasted time and lost sales. That’s why top sales organizations are using onboarding as a tool to shorten the path to productivity for new sales hires. Human capital is your most valuable asset, and it’s worth it to understand what high turnover means for your organization and its bottom line.

So, what does it really cost to lose a sales rep—and how can onboarding help boost salesforce retention? Here’s what you need to know.

The hidden cost of sales turnover

Did you know that the cost of sales turnover is $115,000? That’s a scary number, but it’s the average tab when you factor in separation costs, replacement costs (including lost time in the field), and costs for acquisition and training. Formulas for replacing a salesperson vary widely, but the cost is significant no matter how you look at it. For example, Hubspot reported that the average cost of recruiting, hiring, and training an employee is typically 200% of an employee’s annual salary.  

Think of it this way: it can take awhile to replace a rep, and most organizations average between two to six months. As reps come and go, you could lose clients, struggle to hit quarterly quotas, and see a decline in morale–all of which directly impact the bottom line. 

What drives sales reps away?

Now that we know the cost of sales rep turnover, let’s dig into why they’re leaving in the first place. Here’s the good news: salesforce turnover is a preventable problem. Reps will always come and go, but there’s a lot you can do to retain more team members. The market research firm IDC found that 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 90 days. The same survey also uncovered a correlation between the strength of an onboarding program and employee turnover. Organizations with low turnover had an onboarding process designed to target retention. 

That tells us that not only do new hires crave a strong onboarding program, it could be critical to their success in a new setting. According to Gallup research, when employees decide to leave, their reasons are pretty consistent. Predictors of turnover haven’t changed much over the years—the top five reasons employees cited in the survey included: the immediate manager, a poor fit with the job, coworkers not being committed to quality, inadequate pay and benefits, and a lack of connection to the organization and senior management. When you understand the factors driving sales reps away, you can take informed action to fix it.

Building better onboarding programs to reduce sales rep turnover

So, if onboarding is the solution to reducing the cost of sales turnover (acquiring and training new reps and maintaining sales momentum), why isn’t everybody doing it? The best organizations are, but it’s easier said than done. According to a study from the Sales Management Association (SMA), 62% of companies consider themselves ineffective at onboarding new sales hires. Let’s take a minute to demystify the goals of an effective onboarding program. 

When you get it right, your onboarding program will: 

  • Speed new hires to productivity
  • Create commitment to the organization
  • Reduce the stress and cost of sales turnover
  • Lead to success and job satisfaction
  • Create more effective long-term employees

Consider the top reasons employees cited for leaving—sales managers and leaders can influence every single one. When you commit to creating a consistently stellar sales culture, everyone you bring onboard will be better equipped for success. Focus on building a program that trains new reps on your customers, products, processes, and culture. And keep in mind that onboarding isn’t a one-and-done event: you can keep training going even after onboarding is over.

Effective onboarding is your best line of defense to reduce the cost of sales turnover. Even more, it’s an investment in your most valuable asset: your people. Get it right, and you’ll boost salesforce retention, morale, and productivity.

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Sales Onboarding Best Practices — 6 Awesome Examples

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