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The Generational Shift: How to Adapt Your Sales Organization


As you may have noticed in your own sales organization, the generations present in today’s workforce are evolving. Over 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day, while Millennial representation continues to increase.

Whether or not you are currently experiencing the implications of generational diversity, a study conducted by Ernst & Young highlights the demographic reality: By 2025 Millennials will represent 75% of the workforce.  

This shift affects sales teams in many ways – from the way that buyers evaluate their options and make decisions, to the role of the sales professional within the organization and in the field.

We researched 100 companies and sales teams in an effort to understand what they are doing to adapt and capitalize on these demographic changes. Let’s examine what four of their highest priority areas are:

1. Adjusting to the Changing Buyer

In certain industries, including advertising and technology, Millennials are moving into positions of “buying” authority. Our research shows that Millennials leverage digital sources (such as search engine, vendor websites, social media) and peer input significantly more than advice from a sales professional when making a purchasing decision.

Organizations are moving away from bureaucratic and hierarchical decision-making processes in lieu of an approach that is more inclusive and collaborative.

Are your sales and marketing teams equipping your organization to effectively market and sell in this new decision landscape?

2. Rethinking the Structure of the Sales Organization

For most companies, maintaining a blend of inside and field-based sales teams allows them to balance the overall cost of sales with sales effectiveness. We had the opportunity to speak with a Fortune 100 enterprise technology firm. The company had recently launched a new sales team which focused on combining digital marketing, social selling, and traditional inside sales methods to target a new segment of buyers.

The team leader told us, “If Millennials are doing 80% of their research prior to ever talking to someone, we need to get in front of them and become more top of mind with things like digital ads, keywords, banners — all to assist with the buyer’s journey.”

Is your sales model optimized to win in this changing buying environment?

3. Developing the Sales Force of the Future

Many companies have found that the supply of experienced enterprise sales professionals is shrinking. These professionals, who started their careers in sales development programs with companies such as HP, IBM, DEC (you know you are at least a Gen Xer if you recognize this once-great tech company) are becoming more difficult to find. Those sales development programs were eliminated in cost-cutting moves in the ’90s and ’00s.

Still, progressive firms in the technology arena have restarted sales development programs focused on recruiting and developing Millennial new hires by integrating technology, gamification, and experiential learning opportunities.

How well is your organization attracting and developing Millennial talent?

4. Teaching Generational Awareness to Your Team

Being aware of generational differences, observing and validating behavior, and adjusting accordingly will allow sales professionals to minimize generational flare-ups internally among colleagues and externally with clients.

Our research and experience has shown that to engage and build credibility, trust, and rapport, sales professionals must learn how to minimize the impact of generational differences, especially when making that first impression.

Do you train your sales professionals on how to overcome the challenges of connecting with peers, colleagues, prospects, and clients spanning the generational divide?

If Millennials are doing 80% of their research prior to ever talking to someone, we need to get in front of them and become more top of mind with things like digital ads, keywords, banners — all to assist with the buyer’s journey.”

Warren Shiver | Founder and Managing Partner, Symmetrics Group

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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