As a father of four, I have watched my fair share of Disney and Pixar movies. While each movie offers a teachable lesson for life, Monsters, Inc. provides much-needed insights for business owners and sales directors. The main characters, Sully and Mike Wozowski, played humorously by John Goodman and Billy Crystal, by happenstance find that the tried and true way of powering their monster world with screams pales in comparison to power generated by compassion and laughter. With turnover a major issue for entry level sales jobs and the entrance of Generation Z in the workplace, we too cannot continue to use scare tactics. To ensure sales success, we need to use goodwill as the preeminent retention strategy.
Turnover plagues entry-level sales jobs, especially sales development representative (SDR) roles. According to The Bridge Group study, 34% of sales development representatives will turnover from year to year. Many reasons exist for SDR departures, including involuntary, however, most express that they left due to unrealistic expectations, lack of confidence in product and leadership, and feeling undervalued with unpredictable compensation changes. Instead of identifying and fixing these internal issues or outsourcing this function, most companies revert to a “conveyor belt” mentality – assuming that there is a never-ending cycle of qualified talent ready to replace the exodus (Chaine, 2017)..
This approach confuses idealism with pragmatism – hope versus reality. It drains an organization’s balance sheet through the large amounts spent on recruiting and training, steers managers’ time away from revenue growth because they continually look for talent, and decreases production with empty sales development representative seats and issues with team dynamics. Emotionally, as sales leaders, we want to believe that there is an ongoing talent supply. However, with an employment rate under 3% and an endless number of available entry-level sales jobs, finding and retaining quality SDR professionals is brutal. Now, with the entrance of Generation Z in the workplace en masse, without a mindset shift, companies will lose out on much greater production, revenue, and sales.
A technological native generation, early analysis of Generation Z in the workplace shows that while they are unafraid of hard work, authentic human connection is essential for their well-being. The Forbes article titled, “How Generation-Z Will Revolutionize the Workforce,” shows Generation Z craves positive relationships, face-to-face time with managers, and constant feedback. Moreover, they want managers to be candid (not obnoxious) when they fail and work with them to solve the issues. As the article concludes, “when you have better perspective of individuals, it becomes more possible to create an environment in which they can thrive” (Stahl, 2019). When managers, consciously or subconsciously, endorse the “conveyor belt” mentality, however, they minimize an SDR, their humanity, their value, and their sales success..
There are multiple ways to more fully focus on an individual and their needs, which can lead to greater commitment and longer tenures. Some of the strategies that have worked at The Selling Factory, which has an under 10% turnover rate, include:
Take an interest – While an easy thing to do, most people are too busy to learn about another person. Beyond expressing cordial greetings, ask an individual how they are doing, what they like to do in their free time, and what skills are they interested in developing.
Focus on the Why – Sales development representative work can be tedious. Take time to constantly discuss why the campaign is happening and why the specific vertical is instrumental to company success. Instead of constantly reminding people of performance metrics and quotas, celebrate the team efforts and how SDR teams, in particular, have shaped the overall company’s goals.
Layout a plan for improvement and advancement – Generation Z wants to advance in their careers, and realize the importance of embracing failure to grow and learn. Take time to meet with individuals, be candid about performance, and provide pathways for improvement and develop a strategy for career growth.
As Generation Z takes hold of entry level sales jobs, it is imperative to aggressively seek management options that value entry-level sales professionals. Shifting our mentality to focus on activating and advancing the people we hire, rather than constantly looking for replacements can lead to greater sales success, higher retention, and better overall production.
Chaine, Anthony, December 3, 2017. “Why is Turnover So High in B2B Sales?”
Stahl, Ashley. September 10, 2019. “How Generation-Z Will Revolutionize the Workforce.”