How to close the generational gap in sales teams
How sales teams can close the generational gap by building a culture of continuous development and optimizing talent engagement strategies.
How to close the generational gap in sales teams
Identifying, recruiting and retaining sales talent is a constant struggle. In part, that’s because turnover in sales roles is typically two times higher than in other industries. Now, with Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce, retaining sellers is even harder because they have the shortest job tenures of any generation.
The costs of failing to engage and retain younger employees are high. It takes four months to recruit a new salesperson. And it takes nine months to get a new seller to full productivity, according to our 2020 Sales Talent Study. Sinking 13 months into onboarding recruits, only to have them leave after 27 months (the average for Gen Z) or 33 months (Millennials), is costly, not to mention frustrating.
But sales organizations can take proactive steps to increase engagement and reduce attrition among younger generations of employees. To close the generational gap in sales teams, sales organizations must create an engaging onboarding process, use talent assessments to discover sellers’ strengths, build a culture focused on continuous development and implement the right rewards strategy.
Sales organizations need to show how they’ll invest in training and development to build loyalty among Millennial and Gen Z talent. Younger employees want to know up front about your organization’s plans for onboarding and when they can expect to receive more training to help them advance. To match younger employees’ expectations, sales organizations need to publicize their training program, establish learning outcomes and set development goals.
The onboarding curriculum should explain how you plan to set your sellers up for success. Of course, it’s critical that your sellers know the unique value proposition of your products and services. However, they must realize that it’s just as important for them to understand how to connect with customers.
Young sellers need to learn how to tailor their sales process to the individual buyer’s journey, specifically using the right sales methodology.
A sales methodology equips sellers with the “how” and “why” they need to strategically move through the sales process. Sellers need know-how to navigate each stage of the customer journey, no matter how different that may look from prospect to prospect. To put it simply, a methodology gives sellers the agility they need to drive more successful outcomes.
Sellers must learn how to offer perspective — the knowledge and insights that help customers see opportunities and challenges in a new light. Perspective is why buyers are engaged earlier in the sales cycle before they even talk to a seller about contract terms. Perspective is what differentiates your sales organization from the competition.
Sales methodology has long been at the heart of sales training. Yet Millennial and Gen Z sellers are less likely to adopt the sales methodology that has driven sales effectiveness for decades. Younger sellers are more skeptical of established methods and processes and prefer to carve their own path.
However, by tying sales methodology to results, you can compel younger sellers to embrace methodology. For example, sales organizations with strong onboarding programs help sellers reach productivity two months faster than those without formal programs, according to our 2020 Sales Talent Study. Following a sales methodology can lead to better, more lucrative deals and higher income.
Sellers can also frame training on sales methodology in terms of helping Millennials and Gen Z achieve their personal goals. For example, a sales methodology streamlines the selling process, ensuring sellers spend time only on opportunities likely to close. That gives younger sellers more time back in their day so they can achieve a better work-life balance.
If Millennials and Gen Z see a path to advance in their organization and feel invested, they’re less likely to look for employment elsewhere. Talent assessments can help you figure out how to integrate younger generations more tightly into your sales organization and build a path for advancement.
For example, skills and competency assessments can help you understand your sellers’ methods. Behavioral assessments focus on improving what sellers say and do, so you can determine how to strengthen the buyer approach. Predictive assessments recognize the seller traits that lead to success in your organization.
With assessment tools, sales leaders can ensure they’re matching the right people with the right roles. These tools also help leaders understand sales gaps that need to be filled in order to advance as an organization. Sales managers can use assessment data to inform their coaching strategy, and analyze assessment data to identify sellers who are good candidates for leadership roles.
A culture of continuous development means training is not a one-time event when sellers join the company. It’s an everyday pursuit for everyone in the organization, from top to bottom.
A strong sales culture focused on development also recognizes what employees bring to an organization. This means understanding the current value of employees as well as their capacity for growth. Accordingly, the organization then gives sellers access to the resources they need to continue enhancing their skills and it also offers clear opportunities for advancement.
To start building a culture that supports continuous development, the sales organization needs to set a vision for talent that the organization needs in order to grow. It must also build a support system ready to recruit, develop and engage that talent.
Organizations should also invest in training and technology that supports sellers. For example, adding a sales analytics platform to your CRM can build core sales methodology into your sellers’ activities. The right technology will offer just-in-time training at the moments that matter in the sales process. Additionally, intelligent sales platforms also give sales managers insights into sellers’ behavior, so they can understand which behaviors lead to closing deals and which sellers need more sales methodology reinforcement.
Measuring sales success shouldn’t be just about the numbers — at least not for Millennials and Gen Z. To close the generational gap in sales teams, you’ll have to reframe your concept of performance. You can’t give awards just for being the “best” seller based on metrics focused on the top results. Instead, your sales organization needs to think of new ways to offer recognition that’s more meaningful.
Employee recognition strategies can help close the generation gap when it comes to encouraging sellers to be their best. Unlike participation trophies, recognition is about appreciating the contributions of those who helped the organization reach a goal. A recognition strategy also satisfies the Millennial and Gen Z craving for immediate feedback.
When sales organizations take a more holistic approach to rewards that includes money, non-cash benefits and recognition that rewards sellers at multiple touchpoints along the buyer’s journey, they’ll become more appealing to younger generations.
The generational gap in talent affecting many sales organizations doesn’t have to derail yours. The Intelligence Cloud identifies sellers capable of delivering on your future strategy. It can also highlight gaps in your current sales talent so you can upskill and reskill your sellers and prepare them for your future needs.
Perhaps best of all, it can also layer sales methodology on top of your current sales technology. With the Intelligence Cloud, you can learn what helps your best sellers win. Then you can replicate those skills throughout your salesforce and close performance gaps as well as generational gaps in your sales team.
Learn more about the Korn Ferry Intelligence Cloud and how our Sales Effectiveness Solutions help sellers improve sales performance and predictability through actionable insights and data.