Are you retaining your investment when sales people leave?

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Businessman in Office Building LobbyTraining a successful sales person requires a significant investment in time, money and other company resources. While that investment will hopefully provide healthy long-term dividends in the form of increased sales and market share, have you ever thought about how much of that initial investment and accrued knowledge and experience walks out of the door every time you lose a sales person?

While most well managed companies will be able to tell you to the nearest cent how much money they have spent on providing their sales staff with the product training, tools, analysis and marketing materials they need to be successful, very few organizations have a sophisticated method of capturing, storing, measuring and sharing the knowledge and experience of those sales people.

Just because a sales person moves onto new pastures doesn’t mean that his or her tribal knowledge has to leave the company, too.  A loss is a loss when it comes to turnover in people. There is value in every employee no matter how poorly they did while working for your company. Think about it, there must have been some quality in that person when you hired them. I’m sure that the amount of additional knowledge and training they gathered while working at your organization has some value. Even your worst salesperson has some nugget of knowledge or experience that is worth saving.

Organizations lose tens of thousands of dollars each year when they lose someone that they have invested in educating to represent and sell their products or solutions. When they leave, it creates a knowledge vacuum that is costly and often times can’t be replaced.

So what can organizations do to harness that knowledge so that it is transferrable? Well, one thing they could do would be to create an environment where the idea of collaborating and the sharing of knowledge and experiences is promoted and recognized.  There also needs to be a way in which that knowledge and experience can be captured so that it can be replicated and shared.

The whole concept of social networking like Facebook or Twitter has made it more acceptable to share your thoughts and ideas with your friends, so why not offer the same type of opportunity internally? has an option called Chatter, where people can engage in discussions, but I’m talking about a more structured way in which you can tap into a person’s knowledge and experience. Why not allow them to make contributions about their successes and, yes, even their failures which tap into what they use to be successful? There needs to be some type of platform in which they could do that, and it might come in the form of a newsletter or a successful highlights profile of an individual.  There are other ways, I’m sure, that you can capitalize on their knowledge and experiences so they can be archived and shared with others. The bottom line is that you need to recognize this drain on your intellectual capital when there is turnover and create an action plan to deal with it. It’s not only a shame, but a waste of money and opportunity when someone leaves the company and takes all of their knowledge and experience with them. So, why not put a system in place that will allow you to tap into that knowledge and experience so at least some of it will be retained and shared?

At least that’s the way I see it, what about you?

  1. Very common sense approach to a perennial problem. You have to wonder why more companies don’t take more systematic advantage of the inherent knowledge they have within their organizations.

  2. Chuck Carey Says: April 2, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Thanks Dr. Coleman, this is a real problem for a number of organizations and either they don’t think about it, or consider the cost, but it is real and should be dealt with.