North America

Hiring Millennial Sales Talent

When it comes to identifying and keeping sales talent, most companies struggle. Just because it’s important doesn’t mean it’s easy. Miller Heiman Group is a sales and service performance company. We’ve made it our business for the past several decades to dissect every aspect of the sales industry. We interview thousands of sales professionals every year in order to report on metrics that matter to our clients. We know from this research that turnover in sales is generally 2x that of other corporate roles.

It may surprise you to learn that 67 percent of companies plan to add sales staff next year. When we also consider more than 65 percent of employees are disengaged – meaning they don’t really love their jobs and they are not 100 percent plugged in to what they were hired to do — we see a disturbing trend. If your employees are not engaged, and let’s be conservative and suggest even 40-50 percent of your competitors are looking to tempt the employees you have away from you, you’ll begin to see retaining your sales talent, especially your top performers, is immensely important.

Given this dire set of circumstances, and the metric that millennials will represent 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, I became curious to learn how Talent Acquisition organizations are responding. I approached former CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, China Gorman, to comment on how talent acquisition professionals are adapting their hiring practices to attract millennial candidates for sales roles.  Here’s her take:

China Gorman: Talent acquisition professionals are adapting their historical hiring practices to attract ALL candidates, not just millennials. There is a focus on the younger generational cohorts, but the state of talent today means keeping baby boomers in the workforce, gen Xers engaged and moving into leadership roles, and millennials and the incoming gen Z cohort engaging in work and skills development – with a focus on the future. Attracting millennials into sales positions and careers is not all that different than attracting millennials onto other functional career ladders.

 The biggest shift in employer talent acquisition strategy is the investment in employer branding work: creating an honest and compelling EVP (Employer Value Proposition), ensuring an engaging candidate experience, and linking every step of the candidate/onboarding experience to real humans and real human relationships. With Big Data, analytics like IBM’s Watson, and a predilection for believing that “there’s an app” for everything, organizations need to remember that talent acquisition is, at its core, a human relationship building function. Millennials, while the first true digital native generation, still need relationships with other humans in their work experience. Whether they work from home, from a car, from the local coffee shop, or have their own cubical at your company’s offices, millennials need to learn how to connect with other people and create positive working relationships. Hiring organizations that keep this in mind can begin training their future employees while they’re still in the talent pipeline.


China’s comments are compelling. To find the best millennial sales talent, Talent Acquisition organizations should refine their EVP to reflect what millennials care about. And it’s probably not a lifelong career culminating in retiree medical benefits. After all, in Talent Acquisition, the “close” is the accepted job offer. Sales leaders: help your recruiters by articulating why your sales organization warrants consideration, and you’ll likely see an uptick in the quality of your candidates, no matter their generation.

About China Gorman:

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after advisor and speaker bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation. Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work® Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. She sits on the corporate boards of Universum, Motivis Learning and PeopleStrong, and chairs the Universum North America board. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report, HR Magazine and many others.