The top challenge for many industries right now is undoubtedly the quest to be victorious in the battle for sales talent. This is substantiated by recent reports from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Development Dimensions International, who emphasise the urgency of this concern.

Attrition spells significant financial setbacks for any team but a salesperson’s turnover is even more so. In addition to the normal costs of non-sales roles, turnover hurts sales teams greatly because whilst the roles sit empty or aren’t replaced, existing client relationships aren’t nurtured or are even neglected. When salespeople leave, this can kill customer retention. So, staff turnover can be crippling sometimes amounting to four times the salesperson’s salary.

Compounding this challenge is the strain felt by sales teams when faced with dwindling headcounts, all while budgets maintain their upward trajectory. When sales teams don’t have adequate resources, particularly human capital, to meet the demands of their jobs or their workplace requires too much of them, they can feel worn out, ill-equipped and disengaged, ultimately culminating in burnout.

This vicious cycle of burnout escalates turnover rates, perpetuating the problem.

Sales leaders recognise the gravity of this issue. So, it’s obvious why they’re trying to win the war on sales talent. But what are the strategies that can support sales leaders with this challenge? Contrary to popular belief, monetary incentives alone aren’t sufficient. Once basic needs are met like security, housing and food, salespeople remain with teams beyond mere compensation. Furthermore, some remain unmoved by lucrative offers elsewhere.

Research suggests that we all want to be part of teams where our fundamental psychological needs are met. Let’s delve into these four key needs that apply to all individuals, including those in sales.

1. Uncover purpose

Salespeople seek workplaces where they can align their individual purpose with the organisation’s mission and derive meaning from their roles. It’s important for sales teams to understand the impact of their product or service on their clients; this awareness substantially bolsters their commitment to their organisation. Witnessing how their efforts contribute to a larger goal fosters a deeper sense of purpose in their work. This not only paves the way for success but also serves as a guiding light during challenging times, providing invaluable support to sales professionals.

2. Build competence

Competence revolves around our drive to acquire knowledge and hone skills to excel in our roles. Salespeople seek employers who foster their development and empower them to reach their full potential. A clear and attainable long-term career trajectory is also paramount. To attract and retain top-tier sales talent, organisations must offer avenues for ongoing learning, growth, and development in their roles. This can include formal avenues like workshops, coaching or mentoring, as well as informal methods like offering feedback, role-shadowing, or job rotations. By investing in the professional development of their sales force, organisations not only bolster their talent pool but also cultivate a culture of continuous learning and excellence.

3. Offer autonomy

Autonomy within roles entails having control and discretion over how, when, and with whom we work. This sense of freedom energises and satisfies us, enhancing our overall engagement and satisfaction. Attaining autonomy doesn’t necessarily mean remote work; for some, this may not be feasible. Rather, it could involve flexible start, end and break times, or the ability to choose the type of work to undertake or who they work with. By granting autonomy, organisations enable their sales professionals to operate at their optimal level, fostering a culture of empowerment and fulfillment.

4. Strengthen belonging

Belonging taps into our innate need to forge meaningful connections with those around us. Given the substantial portion of our lives spent at work, cultivating robust relationships with colleagues is paramount. These bonds serve as a source of motivation, bolstering our productivity, energy, and engagement – qualities particularly valuable in today’s challenging environment. When individuals experience a genuine sense of belonging and camaraderie within their team, they’re more inclined to exhibit commitment to their workplace and less likely to entertain thoughts of leaving. By prioritising the cultivation of a supportive and inclusive workplace culture, organisations nurture employee satisfaction and retention.

When workplaces prioritise meeting these four fundamental needs of sales professionals – purpose, competence, autonomy, and belonging – they not only attract top talent but also foster unwavering commitment and loyalty.  Conversely, neglecting these needs increases the likelihood that talented sales individuals will seek opportunities elsewhere. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon sales leaders to cultivate an environment that fosters these fundamental needs, ensuring the thriving of sales teams and the sustained success of the organisation.

Anna Glynn is author of ‘STRONG: How the best sales leaders engage, achieve, and thrive,’ sought-after speaker, author, and coach.