What’s up with the lack of assertiveness among new graduates?

I’m not one to generalize, but I have to when it comes to junior sales reps:  there is a fundamental difference in their attitude about their careers.

I won’t jump on the “sense of entitlement” train that many use to describe this particular generation of professionals – although the frequency with which they fudge on past earnings and walk into an interview with unrealistically high expectations of their professional worth is troublesome.

What I will say is that I consistently see a lack of professionalism in their dealings with employers, colleagues, clients and prospects.  There is no diligence in their work habits and, for the most part, they are unwilling to commit to a particular position or company for more than the briefest period of time. There is also a stubborn refusal to seek and take advice from successful sales professionals; advice that would actually help them achieve those unrealistic earnings expectations.

I’m not basing this on the occasional interaction with a bad candidate. I’m basing this on a steady diet of unprofessional voice mail messages, blown-off customer appointments, unexplained no-shows for interviews with Fortune 100 customers, lateral job-hopping, and failures to follow up with customers and prospects.

It all demonstrates a lack of focus and consistency, both of which are critical to success in the world of sales.

Is it a generational difference that can’t be overcome? I don’t think so. It just takes a little give-and-take on both sides. Clean up those voice mail messages, honor your commitments to clients, prospects and employers (including potential employers), and approach your chosen profession with hunger and enthusiasm. In return, we’ll provide you with the feedback, opportunities and tools you need to get where you want to be.

If you can’t do that, find another career. It’s just that simple.

5 thoughts on “What’s up with the lack of assertiveness among new graduates?”

  1. How many sales people do you know that woke up one morning having decided to become a sales person? None that I can think of. I sort of just happens, you get put in that position for any number of reasons.

    How many have undergraduate or advanced degrees in sales? None that I can think of. Most sales expertise is self taught or came from reading a book or three on the subject. Not something tailored for them. And most of that is all theoretical, not real-world.

    Hence the problem. They have no background or insight into what it takes to become a true Sales Professional. Most companies don’t even provide that type of training for their new hires, much less the rest of the team.. Sure, they probably give an over view of what to sell, but few actually get into the nuts and bolts of how to be a true Sales Professional!

  2. As a new and young salesman once upon a time and long ago, I was very fortunate to have role models that made me want to be in sales. I grew out of the tech side of an industry and knew it well. When the salesman came to talk to us and take us out for lunch and train us, I said to myself, “that’s what I want to do”. I couldn’t think of an easier job. Little did I know how much work went into sales.

    There was the data base, the follow ups, the face to face visits. the seminars, THE COLD CALLS, quotas!, Monthly reports,(Yikes). All scary at first. All I had to do was think of and speak with those role models and most imortantly, LISTEN to what they had to say.

    As more opportunities open up and the ecomony is good and maybe even bad, more techies go into sales. The ones I have trained, I think, have done well. It takes patience but it is also a matter of respect. If the “young guns” don’t respect the teachers, then so grows the learning curve. Now it becomes a function of staying power.

    If the companies don’t train the young newbie to sell, there are certainly enough courses and books on and off line to give some insight into the problems and solutions of the road warrior. Some useful, some not.

    The best course I ever took was the Dale Carnegie course. I learned how to listen. I learned when to shut up. I learned how to ask for the money. But, most important, I learned about personal relationships and their importance to the sale.

    Failure is another learning tool. “if it doesn’t kill you”

    Old guys, show the young guys what you know, maybe they’ll listen, maybe not. One day, if persistant, there will be success. And you can say, “There was a time when…”

  3. Here is a piece I wrote to a client about sales and the aptitudes of successful salespeople:

    Aptitudes:

    Aptitudes are innate skills, not learned behavior. The following are traits of successful salespeople:

    *team/group motivated or objective personality as opposed to self-motivated and subjective personality (specialist such as actors who work many hours on their own to learn their craft fall into this category)
    *low structural visualization: verbal and word oriented and internal as opposed to external visual oriented
    *relatively low vocabulary to speak in general terms (vocabulary is the only aptitude that can increase
    *low inductive reasoning which allows for patience (doesn’t let rejection bother them and also doesn’t jump to conclusions; an ER doctor who has high inductive reasoning needs to jump to conclusions for diagnosis and often doesn’t have patience), *ideaphoria or lots of ideas in order to come with responses in order to convince the customer to buy, much like a writer, Ideaphoria is the most important trait by the way for a successful salesperson

    1 out of every 54 workers have the traits to be a success at a typical sales job(I would say the more difficult sales jobs). Our society put a high price on those that have a unique aptitude. A note about Sales manager traits: they are different than sales persons and often is why great salespeople don’t make good sales managers.

    Anyone can do anything, ultimately. So it may be a dis-service to typecast others and ultimately oneself. However, until one and the workforce in general gets to a point of self-actualizing and things continue to be competitive as Silicon Valley tends to be, utilizing aptitudes at work is important:

    *learn information faster if it relates to our innate skills
    *happiest when we do something we are good at which is usually related to our skill-set
    *if a person is not utilizing their innate skill-set at work or in a hobby, it can lead to dis-satisfaction at work which obviously affects performance and work environment.

    Other important factors are experience and education; aptitudes can fade as one gets older and experience takes over

    These ideas were learned while I went through Aptitude Testing at the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation to find out why I wasn’t crazy about sales. I was okay at it but I would burn out quickly and didn’t derive a lot of satisfaction from it. Since I have had over 10 years of sales experience, not all is lost since my Small Business instructor at City College San Francisco extension said that small business owners have to sell 25% of the time.

  4. Wallstreet cause good companies to pull the desire out of Sales.

    I say this as a D.O.S.- my company and the media companies I’ve worked with in the past wanted more and more money above typical growth each year to grow the stock so they could sell or buy each other. So the answer was to add bodies.

    At the time a good TV station had 5 reps all at 100k or better with soild skills most there over 7 years- now we have 10 to 14 reps and 2 local sales managers instead of one and revenues did not double they grew less than 30% over 7 years. But cost of Sales is up 150% and avg rep time under 2 years.

    My top people years ago left because I had to cut thier account list to help provide a base of business for the new hires or the worst thing touch the commision plan to help control cost of sales. This set false but real cap on income- no more was a TV rep in a Mid-Market making 100K plus only 1 rep in an office was at 100K the rest did from $50k-$80k. This was the start of the dumbing down of sales reps.

    My cost of sales increased- I had less time to develop good staff as turn-over pulled on reasorces while budgets jumped at double number percentage rates. Plus what I can hire for the new lower base pay-is shameful.

    Now I have 2 real sales people out of 10 and 8 customer service reps or over paid admins for a Station not 5 closers.

    To Walter’s point- Sales chooses you you don’t choose sales. Well we are chossing the wrong people for the wrong reasons in sales.

    Now the offer of a soild sales position with a strong company paying $30k base plus strong commission for a total comp of $75k- only attracts the person that can live on a $30k base- no desire to do more.

    We have dumbed down our staffs and then ask why can nobody hit the budget.

    I meet people with great sales- talents (CSS term-Doug’s point) everyday- most working jobs that a teenager should be doing, but they don’t have any drive to be more. They want it easy and with out the work- so what do we do we hire them and provide them with comp plans that provide them with a greta income without a lot of effort- hoping or dreaming that one person will see the light and go for the pot of Gold. Because some consultant company sold a test for Talents and does not measure real work effort.

    Or worse we steal the top seller from a competitor and their head becomes so big that I’m not paying for top talent I’m paying for top ego- waste

    What happen to the late 80’s the years of greed when a person showed up from McDonald’s told me they could do this job- I would give them a chance for NO Money – Commission Only for 30 days and then we would talk.
    And that person would sell more stuff in 6 months than my top seller was doing and start a healthy competitive attitude in the office. We had fun offices with real sales staffs that fought to close a bigger deal than the last one. Not these HR and accounting run sales departments with know personalities and love for the job or money.

    Coffee is for closers- but now a great job and a BMW is for anyone that can be politically correct and do a so-so job for at least 1 year.

    This is one Old Guy who is ashame of where we are and where we are headed with sales training and hiring.

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