According to the 2010 US Census, almost a quarter of the population is aged 45 to 64 years old. The median age in more than seven states is 40 years old. Some consider sales a young person’s sport. Salespeople work long hours, travel extensively and have a considerable amount of pressure. What is the impact on sales teams with an aging population?
Salespeople over 50 may seem less desirable to some managers. Fears abound regarding hiring someone “older”. Misperceptions include that senior salespeople are un-trainable and not tech savvy, that they are burnt out, and won’t work hard. The same could be said for a rep at any age. Benefits that a mature rep can offer include entry to C-level executives, a large book of contacts and valuable work experience, especially where complex sales are concerned.
The aging population will challenge us to maintain a balanced team. As our rainmakers age and move out of sales (or retire), we are faced with determining how to maintain a full staff with talent of all ages. With the number of sales candidates ages 25 to 40 entering the workforce growing at less than 1%, younger talent needed to round out the team will be hard to find. Negative stereotypes about sales, coupled with the shortage of younger workers, means competition will be stiff.
It’s time to embrace that aging workforce and use it to your advantage. Talent is talent and truly good sales people will work hard, utilize current technology and deliver results no matter what their age. Those heavy hitters will not be around forever though, so it is important to feed the employment pipeline with junior reps. Match the eagerness of youth with the experience of the senior. Sales training pairs well with mentoring and coaching. Most new salespeople either “learn the hard way”, or give up and move on to a different career. Keep young talent around with an excellent compensation plan, training and support.
The recipe to a great team is tricky, especially when you have a lot of one ingredient, and less of another. The key is to create something delicious without making a bad substitution at the last minute. Demographics are changing. The facts are here. Create a precise plan of the talent mix needed and how it should be combined. Prepare your staffing strategy now to prevent a mistake at a crucial moment later.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
Latest posts by Eliot Burdett (see all)
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