The Truth About 50+ Year Old Salespeople

Here is a great article from Steve Martin who writes the Heavy Hitter Sales Blog. Who do you prefer when you hire salespeople, someone young or more senior?

The Truth About 50+ Year Old SalespeopleUncle Sam

Over the last couple of months I’ve spoken to a number of experienced sales leaders and senior sales reps who were contemplating their next career move.  Many feared their age might become an obstacle so I thought I would post this article.

It’s still hard times for salespeople and sales managers over 50 today. As companies have downsized, they find themselves five times more likely to be let go when compared to their younger counterparts. They also have a more difficult time finding new jobs because younger sales managers have five basic fears about hiring someone older than themselves:
They are Un-coachable. Younger sales managers fear older salespeople are set in their ways and won’t take their directions.

They aren’t Technically Savvy. Younger sales managers fear they haven’t ingrained technology (smartphones, tablets, e-mail, and web-based sales force automation) into their daily working routine (nor are they up-to-date on the internet, blogs, texting, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

They are “Washed Up.” Younger sales managers fear older reps are burned out from too many years “carrying the bag.”

They Have a Poor Work Ethic.  For a variety of family, personal, or health reasons, younger sales managers question how hard they will work.

They Really Want My Job! Perhaps the biggest fear of a younger manager is that he is hiring someone who may upstage him in the eyes of senior management in order to fulfill an ulterior motive of taking over his job.

Given these fears, I would like offer five factors sales managers should consider when choosing between younger and more senior salespeople.

1. Do you have to Sell to the C-Level? The C-level Executive sell is based upon establishing credibility and trust. Who do think has an easier time establishing rapport with senior executives; a 26 or 56 year old salesperson? 

2. It’s about relationships, not Rolodexes. Never hire any salesperson solely based on the Rolodex (if you’re under 30 you might have to look this word up) of customer contacts they claim to possess. Hire the salesperson who has a successful track record at penetrating new accounts and proven their ability of turning aloof prospects into close friends.

3. Wit. Most companies make previous experience in the same industry their main criterion for hiring. Since these salespeople command the industry nomenclature, they are assumed to be qualified candidates. A more important hiring criterion is how candidates respond to pressure. In other words, how quick-witted or fast on their feet are they, what is their ability to learn quickly, and are they able to solve complex problems in real time? In this regard, don’t judge a book by its cover and assume a little gray hair means a lot less grey matter.

4. Sales is a Mentor-based Profession. Sales organizations are mentor-based environments. Inexperienced salespeople don’t know what they haven’t seen for themselves. Usually, it’s through the “school of hard knocks” that they gain their experience. Unfortunately, this takes time. The entire team can benefit from emulating salespeople who have accumulated a reservoir of experience working with customers.

5. Who Do You Trust? Peek into the cockpit as you board your next commercial flight. Chances are you are putting your life in the hands of one of the 70,000 airline pilots that are over 50 years old.

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