How to soften the blow of brain drain

When people talk about churn in the telco and energy industries, the focus is often on customers drifting away. But there’s another kind of churn that’s just as big a problem and often gets overlooked: brain drain. 

Every time talent leaves a company, it’s not just the individual who goes. It’s their years of valuable insight in the industry. Their unique understanding of their role and the territories they work in. If they’re moving to a rival, you could even lose your competitive edge. 

Although you should try to reduce brain drain where you can – especially if it’s rooted in a culture or employee engagement problem – there’s no way to stop it altogether. People will always retire, move on or seek new challenges. 

But just because churn is a fact of life, it doesn’t mean the impact has to be. If you can’t always keep talent from leaving, you can at least make it less of a hard reset for the company when they do. 

Keep control of your market insights 

Although brain drain occurs when someone leaves, it can still happen even if the talent stays within the company. For example, if a field rep team leader gets promoted or a manager steps down, and their expertise at that level isn’t replaced. 

It might also happen because you need to change your relationship with a sales agency partner. A common problem for telcos and energy companies is becoming too dependent on their sales agency, because there is a risk that all of their market knowledge and insight is held by that team. If you want to change partners, or work with a different agency in a new space, that knowledge is lost. 

One way to avoid this is to buy your own sales solution and onboard a sales agency onto it. That way you become more self-reliant and own your own sales data. The insights stay within the building, and you still know what’s going on in your market even if people leave or your agency relationship changes. 

Use your data to see where the real problem lies 

Part of keeping insights within the company is knowing what data to collect and how best to use it. 

You might have an excellent field sales team you know you can trust. They’re productive in the field, they reliably knock on every door on their route, and they respect your potential customers by not overselling or ignoring compliance. Getting to that stage wasn’t an easy task, but the result is a highly efficient and skilled team to represent your brand on people’s doorsteps. 

But if those reps move on for any reason, it’s a problem. The people that made the team so well-oiled are gone, and you can’t yet trust their replacements in the same way. If sales performance is dipping, how can you tell if it’s because the area has been saturated or your new reps aren’t knocking on the doors they say they are? 

When you’re not capturing information accurately, it creates too much grey area. Reps are able to say they tried an area to no avail, and it’s impossible to diagnose why the results aren’t coming. 

But with the right data capture process in place, you can know where the problem lies and zero in on ways to make your sales team more productive. Then you’re not overly reliant on your star reps, and it’s less of a setback when those talents leave. 

Protecting your knowledge will protect your brand 

When valuable knowledge leaves, that can be just the tip of the iceberg. If a company isn’t prepared for the loss of talent, the impact of brain drain can reach much further than their specific role. 

To begin with, the cost of training replacements is a setback. But if a team’s progress and operations are regularly disrupted each time a manager leaves, that can make the rest of the team less motivated and more likely to move on as well. 

Where the impact of brain drain can be especially serious is where compliance is concerned. If only one person is keeping track of issues like rep behaviour and compliance processes, they leave behind a major hole when they go – one which regulators might look into. 

Without that compliance lead’s oversight, anyone new to your sector or sales processes might not know what to watch for and how. As a result, leads that should be removed from campaigns are left in. Reps aren’t armed correctly and risk overselling or pressuring potential customers. And when customer trust is breached, so is your brand integrity. 

But when compliance is an automated part of your sales process, you’re not reliant on individuals to uphold it. If there’s turnover in your sales team, a new team leader can slot in and the system ensures your customers don’t feel any fallout. 

If you’re thinking about customer experience and how to make your operations as smooth as possible, limiting the effects of brain drain should fall into place. To learn more, check out our thoughts on boosting your customer experience with territory management and the competitive advantage of compliance.