Why do so many sales organizations fail to retain top young reps? The Apex Predator shares new insights and hard truths for today's sales leaders.

There's a lie in modern American society. Here's how it goes: "The cream always rises to the top."

Ever heard of it? Sure you have. And you know as well as I do that it's total bulls***. Just look at the most infamous leaders in sports and business from this century. Clinkle CEO Lucas Duplan swindled $30 million out of the top venture capitalists in the world before they realized how full of s*** he was. The eternally full of s*** Lane Kiffin took down three of the most storied programs/franchises in football before people realized he shouldn't be at the top of the coaching food chain. Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, perhaps the most full of s*** of them all, just resigned after overseeing a despicable credit card scandal that make Martin Shkreli's recent misadventures look like child's play by comparison. 


I will auction one slap/punch in the face to benefit my friend Mike who passed away & leaves behind a young son who survived cancer. DM bids

— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) September 26, 2016


Pictured: At least Shkreli brings a macabre sense of humor, realism and entertainment value to the craven realities of modern-day business leadership. 

What's So Hard About Leadership?

I'll tell you what: You have to give a damn about other people. You have to stop thinking about yourself - not just for a brief moment, but as your freaking job - and attend to the needs, demands and interests of those in your charge.

It's not easy. Not for today's sales leaders, who entered the game as self-interested reps with no allegiance to anything but hitting quota. Most sales professionals get trained how to sell, but very few are trained how to lead. So consider this your training, sales leaders. I've got some big-time stats and nuclear-sized truth bombs to share with you.

Truth Bomb #1. Sense of Progress is the Most Powerful Motivator

There you go. The secret to workforce motivation.

You want to motivate your workforce? Give them a sense of progress. According to researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle, a sense of progress is "the most powerful motivator in the workplace, even stronger than personal recognition or pay." As their exhaustive research shows, the Progress Principle holds true across every profession and personality type. You don't need to coddle your reps by managing to their DISC behavioral chart. Treat them like adults and discuss their recent successes and struggles in the context of their progress towards meaningful goals. That's it.

Fact Bomb from The Progress Principle

28% of small wins trigger powerful emotional responses.

Truth Bomb #2. Declining Performance Indicates Flight Risk

Wants to proactively combat potential flight risks? Look for your biggest drop-offs in individual performance. 

This brand-new article from the Harvard Business Review illustrates this fact to a tee. Of the 13 signs listed by the article, 8 are trackable performance measurables, such as decreased effort, focus, and interest in working with customers. 

It takes take much tea-leaf reading to draw some actionable strategies from that. If a star player's numbers are going off a cliff and the telltale body language is there, the last thing you should do is b**** at them. Ask the two jabroni managers who pulled this exact stunt with me and got flexed on once I found a better opportunity.

Fact Bomb from The Progress Principle

67% of employees whose managers focused on their strengths are fully engaged in their work. Only 31% of employees whose managers focused on their weaknesses are fully engaged.

Truth Bomb #3. You Need to Be Positive, Chief

Be positive and surround yourself with positive people. Why? The negative people in your life are literally killing you.

In the manager-rep relationship, positive communication is absolutely pivotal to long-term health. As an employee, you're not married. You're eternally dating. Would you keep dating a significant other who is constantly negative not only towards you, but towards themselves and others around them?

Of course not. You'd do like I've done - drop them as soon as possible and find some new people to swipe right on. Why? Life is too short to deal with overly negative people.

One more important point from the romantic relationship metaphor: You need to be giving positive feedback with appropriate, additional context -for the same reason it's more impactful to hear your spouse say "I love you because...[insert personalized, meaningful reason]" as opposed to just, "I love you." As someone whose girlfriend constantly harps on providing thoughtful, contextualized feedback, I can attest to its importance. When given, it's appreciated immensely. When absent for too long, it's noticed and becomes a problem. Remember that and start giving your reps more personalized, contextualized positive feedback.

Fact Bomb from The Progress Principle

High-performing teams share 6 times more positive feedback than average-to-low performing teams.

Don't Get Fragged During the War for Talent

Don't be fooled by some of my saltier prior posts. As a frontline manager and current Vice-President of Sales, I've worked extremely hard at cultivating a loyal following of diehard Apex Predator devotees amongst my managers and reps. 

Not because I need people to like me, mind you. But because I need my people to be as effective as possible. And more importantly, to stick by my side even when they're struggling, the team is struggling, or the company is struggling. I'm not trying to end up like Neidermeyer from Animal House.

War for Talent

And truth be told, all I've done is adhere to the 3 principles listed above. Take these truths to heart. Treat yourself and your reps with respect. Start winning the War for Talent.

Read More from the Apex Predator

The Apex Predator writes regularly for Ambition. He has a contractual obligation to recommend scheduling a demo to see Ambition's sales management platform. Read his previous articles below.

  1. Sales Motivation from the Apex Predator
  2. More Sales Motivation from the Apex Predator
  3. Sales Rescue with the Apex Predator
  4. The Return of the Apex Predator
  5. The Apex Predator's 5 Essential Sales Articles
  6. Sales Mailbag with the Apex Predator
  7. 15 Real Songs to Pump Up Your Sales Reps
  8. Why You're Losing the War for Talent
  9. The 50 Worst Things Happening in Sales Right Now
  10. The Apex Predator Explains the Laws of Power

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