Managing a Multi-Generational Sales Force

Managing a Multi-Generational Sales Force

Economists and sociologists have warned for decades about the imminent doom and gloom that will come when the baby boomers retire on a large scale. Seventy-two million people, mostly in managerial and executive positions, would abruptly leave the workforce, leaving behind a vacuum of productivity and profits.

It hasn’t been that way for most of us. A large part of my generation decided that working – at least for now – is better than lazy days on the beach. So we’ve stayed around a lot longer than we expected. The change is slowly but surely coming. Sales managers have some challenges to solve as we all fade into the sunset.

These are some tips to get the best out of multi-generational sales teams.

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This is a problem that you can’t ignore. You should at least have contingency plans in place if you have some “veteran”, experienced salespeople who make up the majority of your accounts. You should recruit new salespeople or have at least a few that you can bring in in case you need them.

While you’re at the same time, talk to your staff members about their long-term and short-term goals. Keep in mind that salespeople can have many different paths. Some love the competition and want to work forever. Others find it too dull and feel like they don’t need as much work. Prepare for both.

Give young producers an opportunity to experience leadership.

There is often little opportunity for growth in sales departments that are dominated by baby boomers. You might consider promoting some of the younger members to leadership roles if you feel this is the case. It’s not just about the bottom line. Make sure that others are available to fill in for them.

Devise good account tradeoff strategies.

It is unlikely that you would want to lose your top salespeople. The good news about retirement is that you generally can see it coming. You can use this to your advantage. Seek out strategies that will allow you to transfer accounts over the course of months or even years.

This is a good strategy. The retiring rep can keep some residual income from existing accounts. This gives them a strong incentive and makes it possible to ensure that the best clients are cared for, even after they leave the company.

Your reps should be able to sell to all generations. It is easy to forget that career transitions and retirements will only occur within your company. Clients are also thinking about new challenges. It’s essential that all members of your team can sell to different generations, regardless of their age. A little training can help in this area. Just like determining personality styles, one’s words and tactics can be slightly different with older or younger people.

Encourage your salespeople also to establish relationships with buyers’ companies. Will they be able to retain the account if key contacts or decision-makers leave? The baby boomers aren’t just buying, but they also make a lot of purchasing decisions.

It’s not easy to manage a team of people who are different from you, even if you’re a baby boomer approaching retirement. If you do it correctly, your company will be able to navigate this continuous process. You’ll soon read about colleagues who paid more attention if you ignore it.