Your sales teams’ generation diversity has power

Your sales teams’ generation diversity has power

In the sales blog – How are you adapting to the new world of sales? Changing to the new world of sales requires salespeople’s behaviour to be more transparent focused on serving and guiding, rather than self-serving focusing on achieving their quarterly number.

We continue the discussion, why we need to adapt our appraisal, development and reward processes to retain and develop sales talent we need to remain competitive, into an uncertain future.

How we appraise, develop and reward is probably one of the most important factors driving the behaviour of salespeople, managers and leaders.

In the next sales blog, – How should I develop and reward sales talent?. We consider how to improve current performance, groom salespeople for the future and retain the right sales talent.

To prepare for the next sales blog, we must first consider generational diversity. In this sales blog, we discuss the untapped power you can muster and release in your company by better managing the generation diversity within your sales teams.

Which generation group are you in?

Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Centre, provides us with a clear overview in his article – Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins. The table below presents the different generation ages as at 2019:

  • Baby Boomers – 55 to 73 years of age, born between 1946 and 64.
  • Generation X – 39 to 54 years of age, born between 1965 and 1980.
  • Millennials – 23 to 38 years of age, born between 1981 and 1996.
  • Generation Z – 7 to 22 years of age, born between 1997 and 2012.

All generations have grown up with some level of technological change that shaped their attitudes and how they communicate and interact with others. Boomers grew up as television expanded dramatically, Generation X grew up as the computer revolution was taking hold, and Millennials grew up during the age of the internet explosion. For Generation Z, they are growing up in an “always on” technological environment.

Too often we hear older generations complain about the younger generations. “In my day…” and so it goes.

We all need to take a step back and consider this habitual behaviour every generation is guilty of at some time when thinking of their younger generations.

Every generation has something of value to offer other generations

We are accustomed to thinking the generation or two older than us, can offer us value. Younger generations than you or me can also offer our generation value. One example is Generation Z, the climate change challenge and how the older generation business leaders can turn to this younger generation for help supporting society and companies adapt to better dealing with the environmental challenge.

Paul Polman, the ex CEO of Unilever and Chair of the Board, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, presents how business leaders have recently recognised that acting during the Climate Emergency could offer enormous opportunities for their company.

In his interview, Leadership in a Climate Emergency Polman puts his case forward for not giving the young generation a chair at the table. Instead, give them their own table, so young peoples’ voices can be heard to help business leaders and the company engage in our climate emergency.

This demonstrates one example of thinking and acting with the more inclusive intention that engages our generation diversity. Doing so can make us stronger, more reliable, and more competitive.

There is also a place for the wisdom and experience older generations can offer younger generations.

Sean Culey, in his book, Transition Poin, refers to Jordan Peterson’s view that it is through responsibility that we acquire meaning – and that starts with taking responsibility for one’s actions and one’s own words.

Peterson’s view echoes George Bernard Shaw’s declaration of Man and Superman that Liberty means responsibility. He declares that this demand for a life of rights and entitlement without responsibility is what is leading to nihilism and emptiness, for responsibilities, are what transform people by providing both meaning and purpose.

It is vital to here to mention that nihilism and emptiness is a problem affecting all generations that often leads to mental illness. It is our reference to the wisdom gained through experience and responsibility that older generations can offer their younger peers which are the point we are highlighting.

While our younger generation entering our companies have much to offer, they will benefit from older generations’ wisdom, especially their life journey experiences being responsible for their actions.

Our ability to release the power within generation diversity is to focus on encouraging conversation and collaboration between generations. Collaboration supports all within the company to evolve better and take responsibility for the value, meaning and purpose behind why we do what we do as individuals and a company.

A one size fits all approach to development is standing in the way of success

Most companies face some obstacle holding them back from releasing the power within their teams by better managing their sales talent and generation diversity.

Consider your own sales teams. You will have generation diversity and development needs across all your teams. However, most companies, maybe also your own, the sales practices to appraise, develop and reward often fail to reflect this reality.

Our systems and processes are more typically a one size fit all approach. These same systems and processes have also changed little to adapt, support and develop salespeople working in the more competitive, faster “always on” technological world.

Many of our sales practices and processes companies are accustomed to running are last-century methods that have or are fast becoming outdated.

Consider your current sales incentive and rewards processes

The challenge for many of us working in sales is the way we are appraised, developed and rewarded focuses on goals set at the end of the previous appraisal process. These goals may have been set up to a year earlier, and no longer reflect current work and competitive challenges we need to address to remain competitive.

However, many salespeople and managers must deliver on goals that offer them, their teams, or our company, little value to be rewarded financially.

The result, our current sales incentive processes are discouraging creativity and innovation, holding back our own, our team’s and our company’s success in the future.

To remain competitive, forward-thinking companies are focusing their processes on sales leaders having regular conversations with their teams. Rather than discussing the topic once a year, or bi-annually, sales leaders are guided to have regular conversations with their teams that become part of their work regime.

If the sales pipeline is the beating heart of our company, and the sales forecast represents the health of our company. Deal reviews must be our company’s regular health check. It is here where forward-looking companies are considering how to incorporate their ongoing sales appraisal, development and reward discussions.

Do this well, and what was an annual or bi-annual process becomes a valued part of the culture and behaviour within your company. The continued support and discussion reflect and adapts to the fast-moving, “always on” technological world we work.

Sales leaders that have ongoing discussions with their salespeople about performance and development better support them to strengthen their sales pipelines, build a value-based sale, and forecast more accurately.

Regular conversations, as opposed to annual or bi-annual appraisals, encourages more collaborative and innovative behaviour required to develop and improve current performance and groom talent for the future, that helps a company navigate the challenging socioeconomic times we face.

Pulling it all together

There is, however, a balance required between accountability and development.

  1. Accountability – Ensuring salespeople are measured on achieving their quota targets.
  2. Development – Ensuring salespeople are coached and mentored to strengthen their sales skills and sales pipeline, fostering the behaviour required for longer-term company value growth.

The risk companies face who do not review and overhaul their existing processes, is that these processes will become more an obstacle. These processes will turn the younger generation sales talent away, as well as hold back their existing salespeople, managers, leaders, and the company’s success.

Fail to address it at all and companies risk increasing sales attrition as existing salespeople and managers search out those companies investing and acting with the more inclusive intention that engage our generation diversity.

In our next sales blog, – How should I develop and reward sales talent?, we discuss how to adapt our appraisal, development and reward systems to support us improve current performance, groom talent for the future and retain good salespeople.


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