Improving Sales for the Next Generation of Talent

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I’m in Sales! I’m not a Growth Manager or a Chief Delightment Officer, or anything else that people say at networking events because they don’t want to admit they’re in sales. I’m proud to be in sales, but if statistics tell us anything, my chosen and beloved profession needs to change. 

Every day, more jobs are being replaced by AI or being sent offshore. The jobs that are left are harder and faster than they were 10 years ago. The entry-level jobs need to ramp even sooner and convert deals that much quicker. If you’ve been at this for a while now, that probably sounds exciting. If you’re stepping into your first role, it’s probably terrifying.  

We’re finding the job pool of sales reps features fewer experienced candidates, all while customers are becoming savvier and with higher expectations. The game has changed and we need to change along with it. 

Remember when you first got into sales. How have you grown? What did you learn? Over the years you’ve gained experience, tooled up, and added to or adapted your tech stack. We need to change the way we are looking at entry-level sales and improve the first impression we are giving new employees.

Think about the sales calls you receive on any given day. The majority fall into two groups. It’s either a robocall or it’s a fresh-faced recent college (or high school) graduate in their very first sales role. These unseasoned front-line employees are being thrown to the wolves with nothing more than a phone and a script. It’s no wonder we lose A LOT of reps every year. 

Overall, 50% of all graduates go into sales. That’s not just business school, that’s all schools across the country. In the first year alone, we will lose a staggering 40% of those new reps. This is not sustainable. At this point, we can’t recruit enough people to fill those front-line seats. 

Leaders, it’s time to shift our thought process. 

sales team retention

Right now, when a new employee walks in the door we give them a product demonstration, a Salesforce login, direct them to the phones, and say “Good luck, better hit that quota!” We’re not teaching them how to engage or converse. They’re simply memorizing scripts and pitches. WE are teaching the next generation to hate sales. Slowly and systematically, we are scaring away bright, brilliant, young people from the sales profession and if we want it to stop, we need to be better. 

It’s going to take all of us, together, to make that happen. Here’s how…

We need to ditch the script. New sellers (and some existing sellers) need to be taught how to stop talking AT customers and instead engage with them. Sales is where the technology stops. It’s where one person has to talk to another person about their challenges or their needs. At its root, sales is about helping someone else. It’s about human connection. Right now, only 3% of customers trust salespeople. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but if we want to regain our customer’s trust we need to start by improving our conversations.  

We need to make room for failure. I’m not saying that we let employees slide every time they miss quota. What I am saying is that instead of treating an employee like the black sheep, maybe we dive deeper. Treat that failure as an area of opportunity. Let’s help normalize failure and find the “why” behind it. Every missed deal can help your employees, especially the new ones, land future deals. All we have to do is encourage people to talk about it and then help them find the solution for next time.

We need to shift our focus to retention. According to a report from The Bridge Group, the average tenure of a sales rep is 1.5 years. The old me would have said, “That gives me 18 months to find someone else to fill that seat.” What if instead, we said, “I have 540 days to make them love sales, stay, and continue in their career.”

We’ve sold everything under the sun and WE LOVE IT. So, let’s make the next generation love it just as much as we do. 

We can do this! Together, we can have sales reps proudly shouting “I’m in Sales!”

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