Sales team management: How to offboard a sales rep the right way

by Steli Efti

Imagine that one of your best sales reps tells you she’s leaving the company

sales rep leaving-1What do you do next?

If you don’t have an immediate answer for that question, your sales team management process needs some work.

Effective sales offboarding is beneficial for the rep who’s leaving, you as a sales manager, your sales team, and your customers.

In short, customer experience may suffer if you don’t have an offboarding process.

Want more advice on hiring, managing, and offboarding sales reps? Download a free copy of The Sales Hiring Playbook!

Let’s take a look at how you should be offboarding your sales reps. There are two situations to talk about.

We’ll start with the easier one:

offboard sales rep good terms

When things are going well with your rep

Let’s assume that you have a good relationship with your rep. They’re leaving for another opportunity, being transferred, getting promoted, or are leaving for some other reason.

The important thing here is that they’re not being fired. This is a planned exit.

If you have a good relationship with your reps, offboarding situations shouldn’t be a surprise. You should know that your rep is leaving in advance.

Pro tip: Did you get blindsided by a rep leaving? Use the opportunity to learn from the situation. Why weren’t they comfortable enough to give you some warning?

In this case, there are three questions to ask yourself.

1. How can you help your rep?

Sales team management starts with taking care of your reps. And that doesn’t end when they leave the company.

Taking care of your rep even though they’re leaving is when you get to show the importance of your values.

So make sure that you do right by your rep. How can you improve their transition? How can you help them succeed in their next job?

Remember that just because someone is leaving your company doesn’t mean you’ll never work with them again. They may come back looking for another job. Or ask you for a reference on a future position.

You might partner with their new organization. Your former rep might even start their own company and look for investors or partners. For us at Close, many of our earliest customers were actually employees of the sales consulting company we ran before releasing our software. They took on sales leadership roles at other companies and then introduced our CRM in those organizations—so sometimes ex-employees can become future customers! All of these are opportunities—and you won’t get them if you treat your rep poorly.

So ask yourself right away: how can I help my rep succeed?

2. How can your rep help your team?

Think about your sales team next. Your team needs to be ready to take over the work from the rep who’s leaving. And to serve those customers well.

Work together with the rep who’s leaving to make sure that this process goes smoothly. Make sure the rep knows that performing admirably in this phase of the transition will be good for your continuing professional relationship.

Once your team knows that the rep is leaving—and you’ve done what you can to address any of their specific worries—it’s time to build a transition plan. You’ll start with two specific tasks:

Pipeline audit: Go through each of the rep’s accounts and find out where they are in the sales pipeline. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What’s happened in this relationship?
  • What are the next steps?
  • How should the new rep get started?

Ask lots of questions, and take lots of notes. The new rep should be in this meeting, too. Record everything.

(You can find more tips in our article on how to conduct a pipeline review.)

CRM audit: Go through the rep’s accounts in your sales CRM and make sure they’re updated. The information from the pipeline audit will be a big help in this phase.

But there are other things that might come up, too. Updated contact information, job titles, and communication preferences can slip through the cracks when a rep gets busy.

Again, ask lots of questions and make sure to take notes. Record any notes that will be useful for the incoming rep in the CRM itself.

If you use a CRM that automatically tracks customer touchpoints and account changes (like Close), you’ll save a lot of hours in this part of the process.

track customer touchpoints in your CRM

Post-mortem: Give your rep a couple weeks to adjust to their new job and put some space between themselves and your company.

Then schedule a coffee, virtual coffee, lunch, or another short meeting where they can speak candidly about their experience.

You’ll get valuable insights that you wouldn’t get from a current employee.

Here are a few things to talk about:

  • Your management practices
  • How the sales team could be better
  • How the company could be better
  • Processes that need improvement
  • Onboarding or offboaring advice
  • What you could have done to make the relationship even better

It’s easy to overlook this step. Lots of sales team managers would rather not have this conversation, especially if the rep is critical of your team and company.

But it’s absolutely worth doing. This is where you get valuable insight that helps you improve your sales team and your company.

3. How can you and your rep help your customers?

Changing sales reps can be a jarring experience for customers. And when customer experience is one of the most important factors in a purchase decision, it’s in your best interest to make that experience as positive as possible.

The transition from one rep to another won’t always be smooth. In fact, there are a lot of problems that might come up, even with great sales reps.

But it’s worth doing your best.

The important part is to have the rep who’s leaving reach out to their customers to let them know what’s going on.

The rep should let their customers know that they’re leaving the company on good terms. And they should introduce the new rep that will be taking over the account (or, in the case of older accounts, the customer success manager).

Here’s the important part: your rep needs to sell their replacement. Why should the customer be excited to be working with this new rep? Are they the most senior in the department? The most experienced? The most innovative?

Maybe they’re dynamic and exciting, or have a proven record of saving people money, or they’re just a hell of a lot of fun to work with.

Whatever the case, make sure your customer knows who they’re going to be talking to and why they’re awesome.

The new rep should also follow up with an email introducing themselves and offering to answer any questions.

But what if your rep has hundreds of leads and accounts?

If a personal email to every account isn’t feasible, use the 80/20 rule. Have the rep send an email to their most important accounts to fill them in and introduce the new sales rep.

The less important accounts can get an automated email and—if possible—a follow-up from the new rep.

Just make sure to not provide a bad customer experience. Bad handoffs make customers feel like they don’t matter. If they find out that their rep is no longer with the company from an autoresponder when they’re trying to buy something, they’re not going to be happy.

Don’t be that company.

offboard sales rep bad terms

When things aren’t going so well with your rep

Now you know the three questions to ask when you’re parting ways with a rep on good terms.

But what about when things aren’t going so well? What if you have to fire a rep? How do you offboard them?

This is going to be a test of your sales team management skills. If you’re prepared, you’ll pass.

1. Start the process early

Successfully offboarding this type of rep starts before you end the relationship. Make sure they know that you’re not happy with your performance, and give them a chance to improve their behavior or results.

You should also strive to complete pipeline and CRM audits before you have the dreaded meeting with your rep. This won’t always be possible, but it will make your life a lot easier, because the entire offboarding process has to be completed fast.

While you might have several weeks to offboard a sales rep that you have a good relationship with, you’ll probably only have a day with one you don’t.

So do as much of the work above as possible beforehand.

Pro tip: When you’re having the discussion with your rep, have someone else turn off their email account and revoke their access to the CRM. An unhappy salesperson could do a lot of damage to your company.

2. Ease the transition with help from management

After the rep has left, the sales team manager or even an executive needs to help with the transition.

Important accounts should receive a phone call, and just about everyone should get a personal email in this situation.

Let the customer know that you’ve parted ways with your sales rep and that you wish them the best (even if the split was a nasty one).

Tell the customer that you took interest in their account and that you’re connecting them with their new sales rep. As in the transition above, sell the new rep’s skills and experience. Get the customer excited about working with their new rep.

You might even invite the customer to hop on a call with you and the new rep to answer any questions they have about the transition.

3. Complete a post-mortem

You’ll also want do perform a post-mortem here. You probably won’t be having one with the rep, though. So you’ll need to meet with someone else to find out what went wrong.

Usually that’s the hiring team, the rep’s manager, or someone who worked closely with that rep. Talk about what went wrong and why you didn’t notice the red flags earlier. Why wasn’t this rep weeded out in the interview or onboarding process? What could you have done differently?

Be open to suggestions here. You might not like what you hear, but you can learn from it and improve your sales hiring practices and the rest of your sales process.

Extend your sales team management to offboarding

Sales offboarding might feel strange at first. It could be uncomfortable until you’re used to it.

But it’s a crucial part of effective sales team management, and it pays big dividends for your company.

Put an offboarding process in place sooner rather than later, and your reps, sales team, and customers will have a better experience. It’s good for everyone.

And remember that good offboarding starts with good management long before the rep considers leaving. Open communication, clear expectations, and good habits go a long way. 

Offboarding sales reps is a crucial part of running a sales team—something I cover in much more detail in The Sales Hiring Playbook. You can download your free copy today!

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