It would seem as though my post from
last week caused a bit of a stir among a few clients. Not necessarily in a bad
way, but definitely opened the door for commentary. Many of my clients that
reached out expressed their own frustrations with the younger generation of
sales candidates, especially those that just don’t understand what sales is
really about. Several clients asked me to elaborate on the topic as it pertains
to “modern conveniences”.
You see sales, at the very core of the
role, is about human relationships. It is about becoming a partner or trusted
advisor to the customer. It is about being not only capable of having a
conversation, but managing a mature conversation in sometimes very tough
settings, such as at the negotiation table. It is in no way about modern
conveniences. What do I mean by modern conveniences?
Modern conveniences are tools we use
every day to do our jobs. It’s the Internet, Email, smart phones, Google,
Skype, or any other technology aimed at empowering us with communication. The
fact of the matter is most young sales candidates and sales professionals
cannot make it in their role without these tools. These modern conveniences
have become crutches for which the sales person relies too heavily upon. So,
when the hard work of sales comes knocking, these individuals do not know how
to handle the situation.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “body
language”. Nothing has changed in over a thousand years when it comes to
reading someone’s body language. However, you cannot read the person through
email or even over a telephone call. Only in a face-to-face meeting can this
occur. Another old saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword” can be very
true, so long as the person holding the pen has experience. And, where does
experience come from? In the trenches. No one can win a debate without being
trained in debate, having done their homework, and practicing.
Modern conveniences even extend to the
ways in which young sales people are compensated. All too often companies will
provide a comfortable base salary with a small commission and/or bonus
structure for sales people. Where is the incentive to work hard? Give me
someone that wants little-to-no base salary and a hefty commission plan. They
want success and they are willing to work for it. Here is an example:
(Candidate #1): He is graduating with a four year degree in business
administration and interviewing for an entry-level sales position. He has not
participated in any internships although he does have a rather high grade point
average. Joseph has a positive attitude and is fairly well spoked for a young
man of 22 years old. During the interview process he was not afraid to jump
right in and ask questions. He asked about the starting salary. Will he get a
company car? How many weeks vacation will he receive during his first year?
Does he get a laptop and company iPhone?
(Candidate #2): Kerry graduated from the same school in the same class as
Joseph. She majored in business administration with a minor in marketing. She
participated in three internships from her sophomore through senior years. She
was polished and professional; kind yet with a sense of urgency. She too was
anxious to ask questions. However, none asked had anything to do with
compensation, perks or modern conveniences. Instead Kerry asked questions about
expectations set for her. Who will train and mentor her? How will her successes
and sometimes failures be measured?
Kerry became the candidate of choice.
She understood the sacrifices that would need to be made in order to learn and
advance her career. She accepted with appreciation for the compensation plan,
tools, and training that would be provided. She even challenged herself during
the final interview and offer process by talking about her first year plans and how to exceed the goals set for her.
Modern conveniences are great and can be
used to advance ones agenda on a day-to-day basis. However, these tools are
only as good as the person using them. Young sales candidates should be
prepared to work hard without the tools until the foundational skill sets are
in place. Once these skills are learned, then and only then will these modern
conveniences be of help.