President and CEO, Canadian Professional Sales Association.
Canada's work force is seeing a dramatic realignment. According to Statistics Canada, the millennial generation will hold 50 per cent of Canadian jobs by 2020. They already account for more than 37 per cent of employed Canadians, surpassing the proportion of baby boomers, who currently make up only 31 per cent of the labour force. The potential gap is a nagging concern for many business leaders, and sales is no exception.
As retirements continue to stack up, organizations that aren't prepared to adapt to millennials' needs will see their sales teams face growing challenges. Talent attraction and retention, and companies' need for staff to relate to an increasingly millennial clientele, will certainly test HR teams.
This also points to a deeper underlying problem: millennials don't see sales as an appealing career option. Sales has often been viewed as a back-up option rather a satisfying career with many of the benefits millennials look for in a role.
Fortunately, and despite those challenges, the sales profession has many advantages that should attract millennials into the fold – if companies make the right decisions. Here are three things you can do to recruit millennial talent to your sales team.
Recruit young and recruit smart
Your recruitment process will define your success at attracting millennials to your sales force. Begin by raising your profile at colleges and universities, and developing an on-campus recruitment strategy. Many students are unaware of sales as a legitimate career path, and your recruitment process should highlight the offerings that will appeal to them. New graduates often struggle to find full-time, well-compensated employment. Compensation is still a high priority for job-searching millennials, who grew up during the financial uncertainty of the recession and are graduating with historic levels of student debt.
At the CPSA, we recently released a sales compensation report, which revealed that the average base salary for an entry-level sales position in Canada is competitive at $42,322. Since base salary constitutes as a portion of guaranteed salary for the employee, variable pay, including incentives and commission, will provide high performers with the opportunity to earn much more. This should be a key selling point in your recruitment efforts, as it provides millennials with a stable and potentially lucrative career path.
In terms of sources of sales talent, recruiters could also put a greater focus on marketing students. Many marketing students fail to realize that sales and marketing positions include some overlapping skills that can be further built upon for success in the field.
Highlight culture and acknowledge success
It's important for employers to understand that millennials have different expectations when it comes to their ideal work environment. Deloitte's annual survey on millennials in the workplace is a helpful guide – it details a considerable amount of data to assess their expectations and intentions. According to the survey, they want flexible workplaces and recognition for their success, and are motivated by work that feels worthwhile. They are independently minded and want to be their own boss.
That type of mindset is a good match for the sales profession. The nature of the work often means salespeople can work autonomously, and can have the flexibility to work remotely and have opportunities to travel. Salespeople are often self-motivated and are rewarded based on performance, and are encouraged by recognition of their success.
Be a mentor, not just a boss
Millennials look for leaders that are more personable, strategically minded and inspirational than those of past generations. They want a boss that will support them and invest in their success. It is important to keep this in mind when assessing your own leadership style and that of your senior-level employees.
Part of this mentorship role must include a focus on career development and training. Millennials are eager to continue their learning and hone their craft, so providing them with the resources necessary to continue their development will not only ensure their satisfaction at your company and reduce turnover, but will also drive better sales results. In fact, given the pace of changing technology and the competitive nature of sales, ongoing training is critical for the success of every sales practitioner, regardless of age or level.
2020 is coming fast, and business leaders must adapt their work forces to address the new demographic realities. We all have a job to do to make the sales profession more attractive to millennials. The clock is ticking, so let's help the next generation move up in the world.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.