Why Some Millennials Avoid Sales – and What You Can Do About it

By Jamie Crosbie

According to a research study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2014, sales positions (including sales management openings) are increasingly becoming harder to fill. In part, this is because younger workers do not appear to be all that enticed by a career in sales. Other surveys and studies have highlighted the fact that millennials are not as easily lured by traditional incentives such as money or prestige.

What Do Younger and Older Workers Value?

When surveyed about their preferences, the Harvard study showed that 64 percent of older workers listed stability and income as compelling reasons to work in a given field. Younger workers, however, put a higher value on quality of life and making a difference in the world. That means, while older Americans workers are more likely to be impressed by money, their more youthful counterparts find greater significance in doing something they enjoy or being of service to humanity in some way.

This may explain why other studies have shown that millennials often prefer creating their own path such as starting their own company. Far from lazy, younger workers simply prefer to emphasize quality and value over long-term security or income levels. Having grown up during the Great Recession, they are skeptical about finding career security by staying for decades at one particular company.

Whereas 53 percent of baby boomers stated they would rather work for a single employer for their entire career, 45 percent of millennials opted for changing jobs at regular intervals. They are also more comfortable with acquiring new skills. As much as 77 percent of millennials stated they are willing to return to school in order to add additional skillset, although rising educational costs may begin to dampen that enthusiasm.

Recruiting Younger Sales Talent: Retool Your Company Messaging

The hard truth is that sales organizations are fighting a losing battle with time. Aging sales professionals are getting harder to find, just as the up-and-coming millennials are turning away from sales. To effectively fill empty sales positions, companies need to aggressively target talent. To do so, they must also change the message to fit the emerging millennial narrative. This may mean adding value by helping them build fulfilling and meaningful careers.  

To compete, companies need to rethink and retool their message by emphasizing quality, individuality, flexibility, and community service. Besides helping fill empty sales slots, purpose-driven companies are more likely to have brand-loyal customers.

Take, for instance, the rise of small neighborhood brewers and microbrewers, which are challenging the status quo of larger companies. The emphasis has changed from mass-produced quantity to high-value, handcrafted quality.

This niche market is a good example of the differences in mindset and emerging marketing trends. Microbreweries are generally more inclined to craft unique, high-value fare. They also espouse a message based on community involvement, coupled with creative approaches and solutions. Their message is not just about beer, but also concerns reaching into an increasingly interconnected world.

While many other examples could be cited, it comes down to the perceptions of the upcoming generation. Companies that ignore the new models will face stiff challenges as younger sales talent move toward other careers. The bottom line is that, like sales, you have to tailor your message to your targeted audience, creating value for the buyer (and, in this case, the seller as well).

Jamie Crosbie is founder and CEO of ProActivate and an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. A certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer, Jamie helps companies of all sizes increase their sales productivity by training them to think – and therefore act – differently. Contact her today to learn more – jcrosbie@proactivate.net or 214/720-9922.  

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