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More than half of HVAC salespeople leave because of lack of opportunity and innovation

A survey of heating, ventilation and air conditioning salespeople has found that 54% change jobs because they feel frustrated by a lack of change, according to a new survey by HVAC recruitment specialist Thornhvac.

Jason Thornhill.

More than a third of sales engineers and managers said the reason for leaving their current role was frustration at feeling ‘stuck’, either through lack of opportunity for career progression or a sense of stagnation in their role.

A further 19% said they were ready to move on because their employer lacked innovation or wasn’t keeping pace with market trends.

Other reasons for leaving included location (14%), poor leadership (11%), a need for greater stability (11%), lack of training (5%) and not feeling valued (5%).

Jason Thornhill, director at Thornhvac, said that although salary wasn’t specifically mentioned by jobseekers in the survey, this could be implied by the 35% who were looking for better career progression. However, the fact that it wasn’t mentioned as a separate reason suggested there was more to the decision than just money, he added.

“A lot of the comments we received in this research were critical of the way their role was either changing, to become less about sales and more about paperwork, or not changing enough, which left them feeling bored,” explained Thornhill. “Salespeople are generally motivated by bonuses, commission structures and a challenge to aim for, so employers need to make sure they are offering good and achievable incentives.”

Thornhill said he wasn’t surprised that respondents were put off by firms that weren’t innovating. “Salespeople who have built their career in HVAC are often very loyal to the brand they work for, but things get tricky if other companies are investing more in new product development. If they feel they’re representing a company that can’t compete in the current market, they start to look elsewhere.”

Thornhill highlighted the growth of the heat pump market as a good example. “Some manufacturers are investing heavily in new heat pump technology, trying to achieve higher water temperatures with natural refrigerants to gain market share, so if your employer isn’t investing, your job as a sales engineer will be tougher. At the end of the day, salespeople want to solve problems for their clients and if they can’t do it with their current product range, they soon get frustrated.”

Another key trend that came out of the survey was of salespeople looking for greater stability, with 11% mentioning this as a reason to move.

“A number of respondents mentioned cutbacks, redundancies and a general feeling that the company they were working for wasn’t doing well,” explained Thornhill. “Uncertainty is a push factor in any role and sector, particularly in commercially focused roles like sales.”

He added: “There will always be some things employers can’t do anything about, like location, but training, opportunity and creating a positive culture and sense of pride amongst staff are all things that can be worked on by companies that are serious about retaining and attracting good people.”


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