Is it a big bang if 72 million men and women, largely in management and executives positions, leave the offices with their productivity and profits? Of course but this thing never happens because the youngers will fill these spaces. And a mixture, surely, is finished to create a multi-generational sales force. But as a leader, how can you make harmony in this situation?
For the most part, it hasn't happened that way; a large portion of my generation has decided that continuing to work - at least for the time being - would be preferable to aimless days spent on the beach, and so we've hung around for a lot longer than expected. Slowly but surely, however, the change is coming. And as many of us are heading off into the sunset, it's leaving some problems for sales managers to fill.
Whether you have a multi-generational sales force, or soon will, here are a handful of tips for getting the most out of your producers:
Start recruiting today.
This is definitely one of those problems that ignoring won't fix. If you have a handful of "veteran" salespeople who account for the lion's share of your accounts, then at the very least create some contingency plans. Recruit some newer salespeople, or at least have a handful that you could bring in if you needed to hire in a hurry.
And while you're at it, try talking to the men and women on your staff about their short and long-term plans. Remember, with salespeople, things can go a lot of different ways: while some love the challenge and competition and plan to work forever, others decide that so much money makes work unnecessary. Be prepared in either case.
Give younger producers a taste of leadership.
In sales departments dominated by established baby boomers, there is sometimes little room for growth at the top. If you sense this is the case, try to work some of the younger group into leadership positions. The void that's felt when a handful of top salespeople leave isn't just in the bottom line; make sure others are ready to step in and take their places.
Devise good account tradeoff strategies.
There probably isn't any scenario where you want to lose one of your best salespeople. But, the good thing about retirement is that, generally speaking, you can at least see it coming. Use that to your advantage: see if you can plan strategies to transition accounts from one rep to another over the course of months or years.
A good strategy for this is to let the retiring rep keep some residual income from his or her existing accounts. That way, they have a strong incentive to make sure that things go smoothly and that their best clients are taken care of - even after they have formally moved on from the company.
Make sure your reps can sell to different generations. It can be easy to forget that retirements and career transitions are only going to happen inside your company. Your clients are thinking about moving on to different challenges, too. For that reason, it's especially important that every rep on your team, regardless of their age, be able to sell to different generations. This is an area where a little bit of training can go a long way; like determining personality styles, the specific wording and tactics that one uses with an older or younger person can be a little bit different.
Also, encourage your salespeople to make contacts throughout their buyers' companies. If key contacts or decision-makers decide to leave, will they be able to retain the account? Baby boomers aren't just selling, they are making loads of buying decisions, too.
Unless you are a baby boomer who's quickly approaching retirement yourself - and maybe even then -managing a team that's made of, and can sell to, different generations isn't an abstract challenge. Get it right, and your company will roll right through this ongoing process. Ignore it, and you'll soon be reading about your colleagues who paid more attention.