On Valued but Borrowed Time

Senior team member

The years of experience in your sales force can be a key component to the success of your premium retail business. We repeatedly entrust the most important relationships to the most seasoned, proven professionals on staff. It’s no secret that the results of this ongoing success are living on borrowed time.

Some salespeople will work happily into their 70s, but all it takes is one unexpected circumstance to end their career. One of our clients had a similar situation: they had five salespeople on staff, and four of them were nearing retirement. With no transition strategy in place, it was a challenging set of circumstances with no quick answers.

The best solution for these situations is to engage with a seasoned specialist who knows how to build and transform a team. Don’t expect overnight success, but starting the process should be a priority. 

Let’s say you have a trusted, faithful employee giving you the best years of their life (and quite a bit of business). You know they are thinking about retirement, and you don’t want to ask them to stay a day longer than they would like. But if you’re not prepared to implement a staff transition strategy, their loyalty to you may lead them to sacrifice their best and healthiest days of retirement out of guilt.

Replacing a trusted, long-term employee can feel overwhelming. Here are a couple of things we recommend to clients in this situation: 

  1. Engage a professional sales consultant who can guide the journey. You want to get this right for the sake of the employee and your business. A consultant will focus on progress towards your staffing goals while you can stay focused on running your business.
  2. Create a gracious exit plan to honor your team member even while you search for a worthy candidate to fill their shoes. A consultant can help with this too. If more than one of your team is nearing retirement, obviously more energy and focus will be required to coordinate any overlap. A plan that both parties have agreed to honors your employee for the years they have given you. It also helps everyone – including their clients and professional contacts – clearly understand the timeline for transition. 

Recently we helped one of our clients engage a sales specialist who successfully addressed the challenge of rebuilding a sales team facing multiple retirements. They now have a new group of stellar professionals in place, and they did it without experiencing a loss in sales volume during or after the process. The new team is shaping the client’s future with a more capable sales force. 

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