This is not another blog ranting about Millennials in the workforce, I promise. Well, maybe it is…No, it’s not. It’s definitely not. In fact, we have many Millennials working for us and they are terrific. Our group is polished, tech savvy, amiable and hardworking…all the stuff you want in an up-and-coming staff.
That said there is one challenge I’ve found in hiring entry level salespeople that I wouldn’t have encountered 10 years ago, namely—nobody knows how to talk on the phone anymore.
Today’s 22-year-olds have never had to endure one of my rites of social passage—calling a home phone line and going through a parent before getting to my final destination. Snapchatting, Instagramming and texting…these are the new modes of communication for the younger set. (Jealous? I am.) However, as a result, social media has significantly reduced verbal and interpersonal skills.
Can a Millennial run circles around me when it comes to setting up apps? Yup. Are they great researchers and social anthropologists from their many hours of Facebook stalking? Of course. But in our multigenerational workforce, phone calls and face-to-face meetings still exist and everyone needs the skills to navigate both, especially in sales.
So, where does that leave us (maybe old and crotchety) Gen X managers trying to hire people who know how to talk, let alone sell, on the phone or face-to-face?
The good news is, I’ve had luck in a few places:
1) Student Fundraisers: Any grad with the words “phonathon” on their resume is a good place to start. If a candidate has fundraised at their school or elsewhere, chances are they’ve spent some quality time on the phone. These are the people who have started to build sales skills, negotiating tactics and mechanisms for coping with rejection. Not getting somebody live, burning through cold calls, and dealing with “no” (a lot) build the invaluable skills of great salespeople.
2) Athletes: The discipline, interpersonal skills and competitive mindset of an athlete all dovetail nicely into the skills needed for a great salesperson. Athletes know and appreciate the importance of wins and losses and have developed skills to cope with either scenario.
3) Retail/Restaurants: Never has the adage, “Everyone should wait tables at least once,” been more accurate than today. Waitresses, retail salespeople, anyone whose job entails working with customers face-to-face and responding to issues/complaints on the fly are all great starting places when it comes to your search for your next entry level salesperson.
Phone skills and face-to-face interaction may become less important as the Millennial workforce moves up the ranks, but in the meantime, there is still a gap between the incoming generation and Gen X clients/decision-makers. And until the gap shrinks, entry level salespeople will need to put themselves out there, take risks, talk on the phone, and maybe even have face-to-face conversations over a cup of coffee in order to be successful in this field.