Jenny Jo Smith
Special to the State Gazette
Is the next generation of salespeople heading toward extinction?
Former IBM President Thomas Watson was known for saying "nothing happens until a sale is made." We saw that truth painfully realized during the 2007-09 recession. According to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as demand plummeted, approximately 1.6 million sales jobs were cut across multiple industries.
Sales jobs are among the fastest growing and highest paying. However, risk-averse Millennials aren't necessarily lining up for these positions or viewing sales as a long-term career. Recruiting challenges, training expenses and high turnover also make sales positions among the most costly to fill. With all these challenges, are sales teams facing an unavoidable demise?
The carrots we traditionally dangle to recruit sales people are the promise of a competitive environment as well as big commission payouts and bonuses for the financially driven. However, the often-overlooked perks of sales jobs are huge selling points for reaching the next generation of sales people.
Field sales positions offer the kind of flexibility many other jobs struggle to effectively provide. The flexible hours and constant change of scenery allow sales people control over when, where and how they work.
Sales jobs also naturally draw from the most beneficial elements of part-time telecommuting. When managed to foster collaboration over isolation, a virtual team environment is highly enticing to a workforce with increased interest in online communication and self-managed work environments. Whether in-house face time with your sales team is limited because the team is scattered across satellite offices or because your team is on the road most of the day, meaningful virtual communication is critical.
Consider the ideas below to begin building a standard of collaboration that allows your team to keep moving without sacrificing a relational environment.
Work together to create a communication charter to establish the norms of behavior at virtual meetings or for periodic social or text check-ins.
Build rhythm by setting value-added standing team meetings that include the use of social networking features. Keep virtual meetings short and to the point, and create a regular agenda to keep everyone on task. An agenda could be as simple as each person sharing a status update in this format: tasks I said I'd do this week and the results; issues that came up; what I'm doing next week.
Kick off virtual team meetings with an icebreaker. Assign a different person each week to plan and lead the icebreaker.
Grow leadership within the team by delegating special projects, assigning mentors, and asking the group to share best practices.
Hold regular one-on-one meetings and coaching sessions.
Propose an aggressive goal for your team, and track successes online where everyone can see the progress.
We often ignore the decline of a species until extinction becomes inevitable, but creating environments meant to attract, retain and sustain top talent will ensure the existence of sales teams of the future.
Jenny Jo Smith, training and development strategist at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at redrovercompany.com.