As the youngest baby boomers grow closer to retirement age, manufacturers will see their employee base grow to include more millennials. Manufacturer sales leaders must acknowledge now that their aging workforce requires them to invest in succession planning now and put strategies in place to keep important institutional knowledge from leaving their organizations, while also recognizing that millennials require different approaches to hiring and training than previous generations.
The 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study found that only 39% of manufacturing organizations feel as though their talent strategy ensures they have the people capability to achieve their business goals. Furthermore, only 20% assess why their top performers are successful. Given the challenge at hand, now is the time to improve effectiveness at hiring and evaluating sellers, and take control of the talent strategy to ensure the right sellers are in the right roles.
Understand What Millennials Want from the Workplace
Miller Heiman Group Performance Sales Consultant Pam Hammers, recently talked about the huge wave of change occurring in the industry on our Move the Deal podcast. Hammers argues that to transition to bringing in millennials, manufacturing sales leaders need to, “take an objective look at your strategy and ensure you’re taking advantage of their strengths and addressing some of the challenges they bring.”
When millennials sense loyalty from their employers, they are 22x more inclined to stay there for a long time. Today only 25% of manufacturing organizations feel that there’s ample opportunities for promotion and career development. But millennials want to see a pathway to growth that sets them up for success. Be specific about how they can accelerate their careers at your company, and provide them with resources to meet those goals.
Use Assessments to Find New Talent
Sales attrition sits at about 18% a year, and at the same time, sales organizations plan to grow their sales force by 9%.
To find the right talent, you need formal, data-driven methods that factor in a candidate’s motivations and the observable skills they possess. There are two types of talent assessment methodologies to guide you:
- Predictive Assessments provide binary insights into an individual’s sales DNA aligned to the required competencies of the role. This assessment is used during the hiring process to determine if a candidate possesses the necessary skills for the position.
- Skills Assessments identify the skills a seller has learned throughout his or her career to determine the training required to improve their weaknesses. This assessment cannot be used during the hiring process but provides sales leaders insights into how to further develop a salesperson.
Today only 43% of manufacturing organizations are using assessments on sales candidates before making a hiring decision. Yet there are significant advantages to adopting these tools: Organizations using hiring tools are 30% more likely to have confidence in their talent achieving success in the future.
Effectively Onboard New Sellers
After finding the right talent, the next step is to focus on building a strong onboarding program. Often, underperformers negatively impact revenue as much as ineffective hiring. The key getting onboarding right is to view training as an investment in your employees—not as a cost center—and to build it into your culture.
Many manufacturers still focus their onboarding training on technical product knowledge. While it’s important for sellers to understand the technical benefits of your solutions, it’s just as important that they understand how to use customer-centric sales strategies to connect with customers. Instead of teaching new sellers how to provide the buying influences with information readily available online, the onboarding process should focus on training to match the sales process to the modern buyer’s preferences. The key is to offer perspective, which means sharing knowledge that helps customers see their problems in a new light. Providing useful insights that help customers solve business problems is what differentiates your organization from your competitors—it’s why a buyer engages earlier in the sales cycle rather than relegating your sellers to simply providing contract terms long after the customer made a decision.
To make sure perspective plays a role from day one for your millennial sellers, coach them to lead with benefits you offer that set you apart, such as your innovative tech stack or reliable supply chain. Value messaging training allows millennials to articulate the messaging that resonates and ultimately will push deals further down the sales cycle.
Why Invest in Millennials Now
Now is the time to attract millennial sellers. Millennials are drawn to a forward-thinking company culture that makes them feel like a person rather than an asset. While hiring, be clear about the sales DNA and skillset you’re looking for, but also let them know how you will help them grow. Ensure that your training programs go beyond the technical and speaks to the value of your solutions based on business needs. By doing so you’ll reap the benefits and transform your sales strategy and sales hiring process.