The Sales Profession can be tough on younger employees
(Note: The following story is true. Real names are not used for obvious reasons.)
You are a sales manager for a five (5) person sales team at a small conservative parochial company. It’s a slow-growth business using limited marketing and social media programs to help generate qualified leads and prospects.
The office has a 1990s retro vibe.
The plumbing is constantly backing up.
The computer system is inferior and on its last legs.
The Customer Relationships Management (CRM) is so old that the original manufacturer no longer supports it.
The morale is…. well….bad.
What keeps most salespeople working year after year is the compensation package, decent benefits, and a no enforced sales quota policy.
After four (4) months of interviews, you finally hire a new salesperson. She’s a recent graduate. This is her first real full-time job. She’s a Millennial living at home with her parents.
Six months into the job, you find that the Millennial is doing a fair job. But you begin to detect that her head isn’t entirely in the sales game. Sure, she goes through the motions of making sales calls, getting orders, entering sales notes, etc., but she’s not lighting any fires.
While you figure she should be grateful that she has a job, you feel she’s not very enthusiastic.
But to be fair, no one on your sales team is very enthusiastic either. But at least you know your team members are older, they have significant financial obligations, and they can’t afford to move to another city anytime soon.
Furthermore, because the other salespeople have been with the company for a long time, they are locked in, e.g., they have a high base salary, a large pipeline, and lots of vacation time. Unless someone comes along and makes them an offer they can’t refuse, you’re confident your sales team will stay put.
But you are not so sure about the Millennial you recently hired. Since she’s living at home with her parents and has smaller financial obligations (except maybe student loans). Deep down, you know she could turn on you like a dime and jump at another job offer — perhaps even another city.
(I once worked at a tech start-up where two Millennials out of a five (5) person sales team quit within four (4) months of each other. One moved to San Francisco and the other went to Chicago. Their resignations put a lot of pressure on the rest of the sales team).
Along comes a former employee who used to work for you. He left the company a few years ago to do consulting work. But lately, times are hard and he wants to return to his old stomping grounds for regular paychecks and benefits.
You know him. He has plenty of sales and marketing experience. He’s mature. He’s hard-working. And unlike the Millennial, he has a mortgage and significant financial responsibilities to deal with. You also know he’s not going to be a flight risk.
But you have a dilemma. You don’t have any openings in your sales department.
So, what do you do?
Do you keep the Millennial and hope that she grows with the job? Or, do you get rid of the Millennial and replace her with the more experienced salesperson?
Before you answer, consider the following -
Further complicating your situation, you live in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C. Your commute is long and terrible because you can’t afford to live closer to the city. To top it off, you and your wife are raising two kids. And to make matters even worse, your wife is working a part-time job she hates. But because the bills are piling up, she has no choice but to work. At least once a week, your wife reminds you of this fact.
Your wife wants to know when your big commission checks will be rolling back in again, so she can stop working.
Long commute, children, mortgage, bills, wife complaining. The financial pressures are accelerating.
Now, how would you answer the above questions?
The sales manager in this situation forced the Millennial out of her job.
He did so by writing her up on picayune issues like coming to work a few minutes late and making minor errors on her orders. While petty issues, the sales manager was trying to bully the Millennial to leave. Unfortunately, the Millennial was too naïve to understand what was happening to her. A more experienced salesperson would have seen the handwriting on the wall, and either a). work harder or b). jump ship.
As for the Millennial, she eventually had enough “write-ups” in her file to get fired.
Was the Millennial mistreated? Yes.
Were the sales manager’s tactics unethical and maybe even, illegal? Yes.
But from the sales manager’s point of view, his scheme worked. He got the new experienced salesperson on board. And with that new person, the chance of generating more income for himself that would eventually get his wife off his back.
As for the Millennial, she eventually landed a new sales job three (3) months later. Did she learn any valuable lessons? Unsure.
1). Never take your job for granted. Living at home isn’t a crime. Hell, more Millennials than ever are living at home until they can generate enough income to buy their first home. In fact, a Census report, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016,” states that about 34% of all young adults between ages 18 to 34 — are still living with their parents.
(The recent case of Michael Rotondo, the 30-year-old who was evicted from his parents’ basement highlights the state of living conditions for many Millennials).
But from the sales manager’s point of view, living at home means you will find it easier to find a new job or relocate. Yes, you may eventually find a new job or relocate anyway. But you need to keep your head in the game and at a bare minimum, pretend that you’re taking your job seriously. You don’t want your manager to catch on that you are job hunting or bored with your job. Trust me, there will always be people waiting in the wings to take your position.
2). Sales managers are human. While a good manager is always professional, personal problems or other outside pressures may force him to take unethical actions to boost his income. This is especially true when the sales manager is not only earning a commission on your sales but his sales as well.
While you don’t want to pry and participate in office gossip, keep your eyes and ears open to any issues your manager is facing that could jeopardize your job. Is he going through a divorce? Is his wife or one of his children requiring expensive medical attention? Is he more stressed than normal?
3). Look at the signs. If your sales manager’s attitude towards you suddenly changes for the worst, fairly or unfairly, he may view you as the weakest link on the sales team. Even if you are meeting or exceeding your quota, the sales manager may feel you can do better. It’s not unusually for sales managers to hire their friends or previous employees they know well. It’s not just a matter of earning more money, but it’s about having a comfort zone.
Sales managers want to be surrounded by people they know and can trust.
To learn more if your boss hates you, please read the articles below –
“7 Signs Your Boss Hates you (And How to Handle It),” by Alison Green of Dailyworth
“Ten Signs Your Boss Hates You,” by Liz Ryan
Selling is an honorable profession. But like any profession, we all have to make choices. Make sure you don’t end on the wrong side of a bad choice.
If you were the sales manager discussed in this post, what would you have done? Don’t be too quick to judge the manager too harshly. While many Millennials may enjoy safe places on college campuses, in the workplace, it can sometimes be a jungle.
Life is unfair. If you didn’t learn that while on campus, you soon will once you enter the workforce.
This post was originally published on my blog- www.dononselling.com
If you like my post, please read my book — Jumpstart your Sales Career, Help for New Salespeople.