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How to Handle Your Exit Interview

Ryan Walsh, CEO
Ryan Walsh, CEODec 3, 2020
Don’t burn any bridges during your exit interview…

The dreaded, boring, painful exit interview.  It’s bad enough that nobody on the team is hitting quota but now they want you to sit down with HR and talk through ‘your experience’ on the team, as if they don’t already know why people are bailing left and right.

Well since you’re going to do the exit interview, you may as well do it right, and provide feedback with the best chance to exact change and give some of your remaining colleagues, or some of the future reps that get sold into joining the org, a better chance at winning.

Exit interviews aren’t complicated, and unfortunately many times it’s just a box checking exercise designed to collect a bunch of meaningless feedback that’ll never see the light of day.

But sometimes it’s not.

And sometimes you can turn that box checking exercise into a discussion that will make an impact, so consider these points when you have your exit interview.

First, don’t burn any bridges.  It’s just not worth it, no matter how bad your experience was.  You can get your feedback across in a constructive way, and you should do that.  You are a professional.  Act like it.  Even if you were treated in an unprofessional manner.  The organization’s unprofessionalism WILL come back to bite them, you don’t need to press that on your way out.

Second, don’t turn it into a bitch session.  You should deliver your feedback in the following framework: Describe the type of environment that you thrive or succeed in, highlight areas of the organization that fit that environment, and then highlight areas of the organization that fall short.

This is really important, because you’re not simply stating what the org does well and doesn’t do well, but the impact on PEOPLE (i.e. you) within the organization that are directly impacted by the environment.  For example you could provide feedback such as:

“I typically work well in an environment where we’re given autonomy to achieve targets, within the boundaries of the established process.  I think where things were challenging for me was that in this organization, leadership tends to focus more on managing every detail of how we spend our time, which may work well for some who need that, but it hampered my motivation.”

Also, and possibly most importantly, it’s critical that you use specific examples to highlight your point.  To expand on the micro-management example from above:

“For example we were tasked with adding 20 new accounts into the system last month, which I thought was a terrific initiative, but then on the second day those who hadn’t created 1 were called out.  It would have been better if the target was just specified as 1 per day, not 20 in a month, as I spent the first day planning my strategy, had a good strategy, and then was called out.”

Specific examples are extremely valuable in these situations.

Include positive points about the organization as well.  Is there a leader (in whatever department) that was always setting the right tone?  Despite the challenges are the sales team members constantly helping one another.  When you provide balanced feedback, it’s much more likely that the feedback might reach levels that can make a difference.

You also won’t come across as disgruntled, even if you are somewhat disgruntled and the HR rep already kind of knows your experience wasn’t great.

Remember, there’s more and more transparency being provided to sales team members, and we’re at the forefront of it.  But these direct conversations are still very valuable and a key part of driving improvement in sales organization environments.  Help your peers, help your colleagues, and up-level the profession.

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