The State of Sales in 2022
By Paul Fifield, Co-founder and CEO of Sales Impact Academy
Right now the sales industry – like the rest of the business world – is scrambling to stem the outflow of valuable talent in the wake of the Great Resignation. Even more so as we face a down market. And on top of the universal challenges, revenue teams must also square off against roadblocks unique to the field and, frankly, it is a reckoning long overdue.
Simply put, we have been on autopilot for years following the educational and retention practices of other industries without considering the unique nature and needs of revenue teams. While workers across all fields are citing frustration with a lack of long-term career support and development as a primary reason for leaving their jobs, the sales industry is even more challenged because there is no universal structure for continuous training.
Until recently, sales enablement primarily consisted of point-in-time training. Companies identify a specific skill or subject they believe their existing teams need brushing up on and operators come in and provide one-time, or a brief series of coaching sessions; the end. This does not account for the perpetual changes in the business landscape, especially in tech. If the contemporary business world evolves at a much faster pace than it used to, so must the company and its revenue teams. Once, the shelf life of business knowledge was 15+ years, now it’s more like two years. Revenue teams operating off of outdated information translate into companies falling behind.
The fall-out is fourfold: understaffed teams, unhappy employees, dissatisfied customers, and, consequently, struggling companies.
The first hurdle is filling those empty seats. In a study published by Amdoc, 90% of general workers and 98% of workers in tech said strong career development and upskilling programs are a priority when considering prospective employers. This means that companies who do not focus on long-term development of their teams take themselves out of the running for valuable, new talent right out of the gate.
Once hired, there is a great human cost associated with the lack of formal education and consistent training structures. New sales staff feel unappreciated, unvalued, and unprepared for their job. They are unable to chart any real career path for themselves and are less invested in performing for a company that is not investing in them; in fact the same 2021 Amdoc study found that 64% of workers would leave their job due to either lack of growth or training and development opportunities. Work-life balance, morale and performance levels are lower. Leadership teams are at a loss and frustrated with an inability to guide or assess the success of teams who are not working from the same playbook. This is a breeding ground for burn out and high turnover.
Again, businesses are shooting themselves in the foot. High attrition is a death knell, and it’s destroying the bottom line. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that on average it costs a business 50-60% of an employee’s salary to replace them. Even for a $50,000/year entry-level sales position that is a minimum of $25,000, and when the rate of turnover is projected to hit 24% in 2022, that churn rate will tank a company’s profit margin.
Finally, if revenue teams are the lifeblood of a business, the customer is the heart. Without an engaged, happy customer base there simply is no company, and without a consistent flow of care and support from a capable sales staff, the customer relationship will not survive.
So here we are, understaffed, with low productivity, lower morale, and underserved customers. Businesses cannot compete in this condition. They’re not even on the same playing field as the top 1% companies who have honed their skills and tactics but are not sharing those strategies because – let’s face it – they want to remain at the top.
Solution: upskilling and reskilling as a benefit and retention method
To find the solution, we must look at this from the perspective that you get out what you put in. Companies must invest in the people they are asking to invest in them.
Enter continuous development – the principle that can help circumvent all the described fallout. A company should invest in their employees’ skill building not just once, but continually and consistently. Not only does this keep teams at the forefront of the industry, it creates consistency, alignment and transparency across the company. From day one, every new hire will have a clearer vision of how to execute daily duties and progress in their career. When given the tools to succeed, a person will succeed.
The value to the employee is an easier entrance into a new role, quicker ramp up, higher morale and the lasting value of education that will continue to benefit them whether they stay with their current company or move on. The chances of an employee leaving a company that invests in them like this are much lower – a study by Better Buys found that workers offered growth opportunities have a 34% higher retention rate.
And the success of the individual naturally extends to the organization. Beyond fulfilling the basic duty of doing right by their employees, companies who support their staff in this way see their own success as well. According to a study by Better Buys, workers whose employers offer growth opportunities have a 34% higher retention rate, and another recent study found that businesses providing upskilling opportunities see 218% higher income per worker and 24% higher profit margins.
There is a place for point-in-time training, when first establishing methodology, for example – but the long-term plan for today’s modern revenue era must be continuous skill development. This is how high-performing Fortune 500 companies are shifting their skill development programs. This is how you compete. This is how you become the top 1%.
On-the-job training and continuous development WILL become the standard, which will better equip the current workforce and grant access to infinitely larger talent pools now able to work on an even playing field. This will literally change the revenue world as people previously shut out of lucrative career paths due to social, economic, and educational factors will suddenly have new life-changing opportunities at their fingertips.
Revenue teams armed with the proper tools of preparation, continuous development, and a diversity that mirrors the consumer base will not only perform better, but be happier and more likely to stick with the companies who support them throughout their careers.
Business leaders have a responsibility to make life better for their employees. Creating a better workplace, business and world by lifting others up – this is the future of the sales industry.