December 9, 2019


You’ve incorporated a hiring aptitude test into your recruitment line and have assembled what you feel is a top-notch team of sellers. You’ve put them through training and feel you are definitely moving in the right direction. And, you wonder if there is something else you can do to improve your sales department. There is – it’s called salespeople engagement.

Even though they are producing, are your salespeople really engaged as employees? And how much does it matter, compared with them simply making quota?

Before we delve into how to measure employee engagement in a sales organization and what it affects, let’s define what the term means.

What is employee engagement?

At its most basic level, employee engagement describes the quality of the relationship between an employer and employee. The thinking goes: the more engaged an employee is, the more he or she buys into a company’s mission and seeks to improve its fortunes, rather than merely work for a paycheck.

It manifests as a good working attitude, extra contribution, high morale, job satisfaction, etc. The opposite would be someone who just skates by and does the bare minimum or even undermines a company with negative comments and a poor work ethic.

Another term for it could be “employee experience.” In a similar fashion to CX (customer experience), the responsibility for improving it lies mostly with the company, not the individual being served. Taking this view, if your salespeople are not happy and engaged positively with your firm, it is up to you to discover why and remedy rather than blame them.

As the first step to improving anything is knowing where you stand, let’s take a look at how to measure salesperson engagement.

The 5 components of salesperson engagement

A hiring aptitude test is a great first step towards achieving engaged salespeople, because it allows you to better choose those who make a good cultural fit. But beyond achieving the best match possible, what other factors affect salesperson engagement?

Leading research firm Gartner provides 5 of them, and my notes follow each:

1. Current job understanding

. Sales training is a big part of achieving success in salesperson engagement, as is personal coaching. Salespeople who do not know their basics will not close many sales and will fail to understand their role in the bigger picture. After a hiring aptitude test to ensure culture and natural aptitude fit, I would say this is the most important factor in retaining good salespeople.

2. Relationship with direct supervisor

. Human emotion and reaction are the “x” factors which can destroy even the most diligently put together sales team. You can lay out excellent sales processes, provide what you feel are fair commission and bonus plans, and provide spa treatments and game rooms like a Silicon Valley startup and still fail if people just don’t get along. And no relationship is more important to salespeople than to their sales manager or team lead. If they do not feel their direct supervisor is looking out for their best interests, expect fast turnover.

3. Perception of senior leadership

. Another component which salespeople must buy into is senior executives and their goals. If they perceive a disconnect between the stated mission and actual C-suite behavior, employees cannot help but feel insecure in their jobs.

4. Opportunities for career growth and development

. Top salespeople want more than a chance to earn a great living. They also want to feel that what they do matters, and that there is room for career advancement and personal growth. This doesn’t always mean a future executive position, it could mean the opportunity for larger territories, having a production assistant, running a small team, etc.

5. Work conditions

. Gartner makes a point that good working conditions don’t increase positive engagement as much as poor conditions detract from it. The reason is that people expect things like a sound organizational structure with clearly defined roles and processes, adequate technology, a safe environment and more, as givens. So only when something is amiss does it really get noticed and engagement takes a hit.

As you can see, clues to salesperson engagement come from more than production and retention metrics. It pays to keep tabs on how people feel about your company and its leadership, because this can portend whether a shift in sentiment is on the way so you can head it off.

Surveys help you measure

An annual employee review and goal setting is an opportune time to survey staff as to their employee experience. You can dream up all sorts of questions, but to help, the following questions come directly from Gartner’s “The 9 Questions that Should Be In Every Employee Engagement Survey.” I feel these are excellent as-is for most applications.

• Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?
• Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?
• Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?
• Are you proud to be a member of your team?
• Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
• Does your team help you to complete your work?
• Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
• Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?
• When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?

Unlike a hiring aptitude test, the above questions could be gamed somewhat by the survey taker in order to appease superiors, so the best way to get honest answers would be to anonymize the test and provide a space for people to provide more feedback if they wish. In that way you could get more accurate insights as to how your salespeople feel about working for you as opposed to PR.

You could also rank each answer on a scale of 1 to 10, rather than provide only for yes and no answers.

I hope every sales executive and manager reading this takes salesperson engagement seriously. If more do, it will lessen turnover and improve the status and appeal of sales jobs everywhere – and we all win when that happens.