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5 Top Sales Tips for Employee Engagement Success

5 Top Sales Tips for Employee Engagement Success

Employee engagement is the name of the game as we dive into 2012. Talent retention is your priority. And maybe, if there must be great talent on the move, let them be someone else’s and you can snap them up.  (You know that carnival machine with blowing dollar bills? That’s what I’m picturing right now, only in this case those bills are Grade A resumes. And you’re the one wildly grabbing at them as they flutter by.)  You traditionally tap into your HR team and corporate communications geniuses to develop your employee engagement initiative.  It’s time to bring a new corporate player to the talent retention table: Your sales stars.

What is employee engagement if it’s not an ongoing sales discussion between your company and your cherished talent?  You might think that you’re the buyer but actually they are. They’re purchasing the opportunity to build a meaningful career with the currency of their time, efforts and expertise.  And you want to keep them as your customer. It’s a transaction. So it follows that your best sales people will have some game-changing insights into how to keep your best customers coming back for more.

It’s not about what your product can do, it’s about what it can do for your customer. In this case your product is the career opportunity you’re extending to your prospective customers (your current and future employees). Some companies have a name-brand cachet that is enough to cause a buyer to say yes regardless of the financial consideration (I’m writing this article on a spendy MacBook Pro, believe me, I know).  But if you’re like most employers, after you meet the prospects’ immediate need of financial security, what else can you bundle into your product offering that appeals directly to your prospects’ self-interest? Be specific. Be unique. Be better than your competitor.

Selling is more about listening than talking. Every sales star knows that true prospect engagement happens when they patiently listen to what their customers need, fear and dream about.  Your conventional engagement survey is a good start, but it’s only a start.  Think about it: When was the last time you bought a car or a house because you filled out a survey? True engagement happens when true emotional and intellectual connections happen. That can only come about when your prospects feel truly heard and that their needs are specifically met.

The first sale is just the beginning. The real profits come with follow-up sales. Okay, so you got the first order, which, in your case, would be the yes to the job offer or renewed contract.  Great! Now what?  Every day that your employees return to work and invest their best efforts and energy they’re actually placing a new order with your company.  This is where you really start hauling in the profits.  Sales stars know it’s much cheaper to keep existing customers than open up new accounts.  You know that too. Look at your recruitment costs.

Differentiation elevates the relationship above financial negotiation.  I have spent most of my career interviewing employees who love their work. You know what? No one talks about their great paycheck.  They all talk about how extraordinary their lives are as a result of their relationship with their company.  It’s about meaning, relevance, the people they work with, how they’re treated, how esteemed their organization is in their marketplace. That’s differentiation.  Differentiation sells – by the passion, not by the pound.

People stories are better than any product brochure.  Consider the typical car commercial. You never see a person standing in front of the camera holding up the car brochure, and pointing to page after page of text.  You see emotional stories of people just like your prospects enjoying the car in precisely the way the car maker wants that car enjoyed.  Driving across snowy tundras, cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway (my personal favorite), surprising mom with a big red bow.

Now consider your careers tab.  With all the passion and stories that are just waiting to spill out of the hearts of employees who love their work (I know, I catch them for a living), why wouldn’t you feature the exuberance of your current customers as you’re trying to appeal to new prospects?  It’s so much more compelling for prospects to hear about how wonderful your company is from people just like them in authentically passionate and informative ways, than to hear about how great your company is from you.  Or from a highly polished corporate brochure that’s been vetted and packaged in a corporate vacuum.

As the HR leader in charge of attracting and keeping the best talent your market has to offer, keep going to those employee engagement conferences.  But keep in mind that you are also your organization’s most important sales executive.  And you’re selling your company’s most important product! Perhaps it’s time to pick up a few tips from the sales department.


  1. I would love to send this for my bosses to read! I will try to send it to myself so I can send it to them! Thanks Martha, you are GREAT!

    • Martha – That is so vital, especially for small business owners and managers of teams. Thank you

  2. Excellent post, Martha. My initial entry into HR was via sales training, and I still use and teach those skills every day, almost 25 years later. The difference is, now I’m showing people how to apply those skills in situations they don’t consider ‘sales’.

  3. Hi Martha

    I found your post to be extremely useful and well presented. I’ve been involved in the world of employee engagement from its earliest days (when those of us who spoke about it were looked at rather oddly) and the notion of “selling” has come up many times.

    I have to tell you I have never bought that position – but you have converted me with this post! The points you raise are absolutely bang on and will be of great value to all who read them. Well done and thanks! Ken

  4. Thanks for your comments Ken! I love the expression “bang on.”

  5. Most CEOs are all over the concept of engagement when it comes to customers, but will go a little “vacant looking” when it comes to employee engagement. But talking about customers and employees in the same vernacular can be a powerful way to shift CEO thinking when it comes to employees. Thanks for your article, very impactful.

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