Imagine it’s Q3 and you are the Vice President, Sales at a tech startup. The lean sales team you have built is finally gelling. The top performers are driving revenue and junior sellers are learning the ropes. Pricing, pitch, and product are aligning. That is when your top sales pro walks into your office and resigns (firmly, with no intent to explore staying).

Perhaps this person quit due to leadership, change in commission structure, or culture. Maybe it’s a reason out of your immediate control – an offer with higher base pay, relocation, career change, a new or better emerging solution, larger territory, or a less commoditized product.

As lead recruiters and Co-Founders of Digital Knack, we help companies stay on track when facing inevitable departures. Companies who can adapt with talent loss have much to gain. Here are some tips on how to gain from your seller’s departure:

  1. Resist the desire to provide a counter offer (in most cases). The moment your top sales pro resigns, you may start thinking about winning him or her back. You think: I want this person to stay – what does he or she need, and how much will it cost me? Keep in mind that money is usually a factor, but not the primary one. Furthermore, 70%+ of employees who take counter offers end up leaving within six months. You may lengthen the shelf life of your top seller a bit, but you just showed your entire sales team that a counter offer could be a good way to get a raise
  2. Before departure, learn what needs aren’t being met – remove defensive tones. Listen to listen. Once insights are gained, you can reflect on whether there are gaps you can close for your current team to keep them engaged, effective and invested in your company. When an influential player leaves, it can be contagious – acknowledge what you could own or adjust, focus there and specifically, on your remaining team. 
  3. Be proactive and shape the internal communications around the departure. Use it as a chance to check in one on one with your team members.
  4. If you decide to address the unmet needs of your team, ensure you set realistic timelines for rolling out those changes and don’t under-deliver. Otherwise, you’ll invite a domino effect. You want to isolate the departure, not spread it.
  5. Don’t go looking for a clone of the talent you lost. Take a fresh look at the role and make it fit with your existing team, business objectives, and needs. Assess your talent requirements by asking yourself and hiring stakeholders these questions:
    • What do we need to accomplish in the next 90 days, six months, and year? How can we reach these goals and what type of talent will help us get there?
    • What type of employees make up my organization? What skills are missing from our current bench?
    • Who are the decision makers for this hire and do we agree on the type of talent we need?
  6. Outline the initiatives that will need to be handed over from the departing team member. Create new accountability with your existing members to deliver on the pending initiatives. Give your team a chance to step up and advance as a result of your loss.

Most people looking to make a move check out mentally before they actually walk out the door. Unhappy employees are unhappy for a reason. If the reasons are in your control and reasonable, fix them. If they’re not fixable, acknowledge them. Unhappy employees risk damaging culture, team dynamics, and your brand. It’s why employee satisfaction rates and business vitality are directly correlated. Companies such as Zappos, Amazon, and Riot Games go as far as paying unhappy employees to leave. They don’t want to employ people who need purely a paycheck and not a career within their company (while they interview elsewhere). They don’t want to employ anyone who doesn’t find personal fulfillment with their company’s purpose, product and culture.

The best companies in the world lose great employees all the time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs every day. But you can make the most of these inevitable departures. When your top seller makes a move, remember that a new top seller will emerge. Employment is an ever-changing landscape, so use these shifts as a chance to reassess your team, your company, and your needs. You may find that what you need is not what you had.