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How to Retain Your Salespeople

By Colleen Kennedy

Long-term salespeople who know your club, your staff and your members well are much more likely to provide a constant flow of new members, who are essential to your club’s success. Conversely, high turnover among your sales staff can hurt your bottom line. For that reason, sales person retention should be a mandatory focal point for club management. In that regard, you’ll want to develop and adhere to guidelines and procedures specifically designed to retain your salespeople.

At The Houstonian Club, we believe that attitude + effort = results. Here are some of the ideas we use to encourage our sales staff to be productive and stay with us for the long-term:

Hire right. While thousands of books have been written on the subject, one thing is essential: your salespeople must “buy in” to your corporate culture. In addition, they must use your club to fully understand its benefits. If they don’t believe in the program, they can’t sell the program.

Build a high-trust culture. Salespeople should carefully examine and digest the goals, quotas and time frames required by your club and once agreed upon, management should trust that these goals will be met. While your salespeople won’t want to be micromanaged, don’t forget that they will respond particularly well to encouragement, support, and a flow of new ideas.

Where does trust start? This question occasionally arises since trust is a two-way street. We believe that it starts with a trustworthy organization, and that the organization demonstrates implicit trust in the employee from the very beginning. We would not hire someone whom we did not trust.

Empower them. Your salespeople should be encouraged to come up with interesting and innovative ways to interact with their prospects. This can be as simple as offering to work out with or go to class with a prospect, inviting a prospect to a members-only party, or arranging a meeting with a club department head to discuss issues that are important to the prospect.

Also, give each salesperson a monthly budget to spend on the prospecting matters of the salesperson’s choosing. The amount does not have to be large; just the thought of the trust involved in providing discretionary funds can be extremely empowering.

Cultivate referral sources. Whatever the size of your club, the vast majority of your new members will come from referrals by your existing members. Credits to member accounts, referral fees and membership contests are fine, and appreciated to varying degrees, but salespeople must go beyond the obvious.

They should know their referral sources so well that they know when to send a bottle of wine to an anniversary dinner, an inexpensive gift when a new baby comes home, or a one-week guest membership when parents are in town for the holidays. These thoughtful measures will go a long way toward cementing the referrer/salesperson relationship, without being costly.

Finally, sales people should also be visible to encourage referrals. This means spending some time in the club before 8 a.m., after 5 p.m., and on weekends, as these are the times when most members use clubs. One or two days a week spent meeting members they don’t know will do wonders for a salesperson’s referral list.

For salespeople, perhaps more than in other professions, admiration, recognition, flexibility and trust are the factors that affect long-term success. If you hire right, start with trust, empower and provide resources, you can build a staff of long-term salespeople, who will, in turn, encourage new members to join your club, and yield positive results for your bottom line.

- Colleen Kennedy is director of membership at The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas. She can be reached at

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