Seven Ways to Keep Young Sales Reps from Crashing and Burning

By Lance Cooper

Millennials enter the nation’s sales teams as the most parented generation in history. Yet, many do not have the goals or plans to achieve compelling ambitions. Today, twenty million young men delay maturing until their late twenties and are without solid commitments and responsibilities to guide their lives. This leads to young sales reps that may crash when they try to take on the demanding challenges of monthly sales production.

Both inexperienced and seasoned sales managers often are not prepared for this new generation of sales reps. As a result they encounter the following three scenarios:

Fast-Start Fades: A sales manager hires an engaging young person who seems full of fire and enthusiasm. His or her early success causes the sales manager to feel good about the hire. And then it happens: the new recruit’s enthusiasm and production begins to fade.

Roller-Coaster Rep: A new hire works hard to sell enough to meet assigned budget numbers one month, and then falls short the following month. Back and forth, up and down: The rep sells just enough to get close to budget and then misses for two months, only to rise again, hit budget, and survive termination.

Character Losses: Many young men and women today join a sales team without the basic values and character traits necessary to make a positive social impact on new customers. If they do meet their quota, they may do so with poor customer satisfaction and unfulfilled co-worker needs.

New reps with these performance issues foster a poor sales culture with low referral rates and repeat business. This brings inconsistency to monthly sales production, creates high turnover, and can adversely affect a company’s brand, reputation, or market share.

Building a productive sales team from new millennial candidates requires paying attention to two important areas: recruiting and coaching. Here are seven ways to keep young sales reps from crashing and burning.

1) Use structured questions and validated profiles. These should be designed to identify the character traits, personality behaviors, and sales competencies of a successful sales hire. Key traits would include honest, ethical, hard work ethic, personal responsibility, deadline motivated, a need for independence, asking questions and listening, and presenting solutions. For example, some sample questions might be:

  • What was important about ______ to you?
  • What was it about you that led to success?
  • What is the minimum amount of money you must earn with us to feel successful?
  • Tell me about some previous successes at school, work, sports, a sales position, or with your hobbies.

Make sure you hire someone who has a motivational center, meaning they have a specific reason to excel. Also, hire someone who has to make enough money equal to or above the income of your minimum sales standard.

2) Install a ninety-day ramp-up process. Your goal is to cause the candidate to exclaim, “Wow, this is a better company and sales job than I expected when I was hired!” Ask for feedback from reps on the sales team, and create a checklist that includes training, introductions, and celebrating progress points.

3) During the first ninety days, have the sales rep complete a goal-setting sheet. Have them detail the amount of money they need to survive and the additional monthly amounts to sell beyond survival and fulfill a better lifestyle (such as building saving accounts, paying off debt, or saving for a new home). You will discover some of their motivating influences when you do this, and both you and your rep will know what income is important and why.

4) Get to know the rep and customize your coaching approach. Develop a scavenger list of twelve personal and important things to know about each rep. Interestingly, many young reps today do not often feel they’ve been listened to by authority figures or that anyone has really tried to get to know them. What you learn will help you tailor your coaching for each rep. What they learn about you when you listen will increase their trust in your coaching.

5) Learn to ask coaching and mentoring questions. Schedule a foundation interview for each new rep. This foundation interview will contain anchor questions like:

  • What do you want?” follow by layered questions such as
  • Why is ____ important to you?
  • What difference will not being able to pay for ____ make in your life?
  • How are you impacted by goals for which you have a low commitment?

6) Help each new rep develop a sales plan. Show them the activity levels necessary to reach their lifestyle goals (see number 3). Focus your reps on the activity levels (prospects found, first appointments held, presentations done) and the character and personality traits that will maintain these levels: hard work, perseverance, discipline, adapting to personalities, asking questions, and listening. As a mentor, teach them how to handle setbacks and challenges. Many millennial employees have been taught to believe that trophies and results are earned by merely showing up. Therefore, recognize and reward effort, courage, persistence, and self-discipline. For example, reward behaviors like meeting prospecting and appointment goals or handling tough customer problems with great service.

7) Set standards for your sales team. Examples of standards are honest and ethical behavior, activity levels, appearance, customer follow-up, and minimum sales results. When introducing young reps to these standards, always explain why they exist and how they help people. If standards are not met, make sure you enforce them at once; do not wait to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Then, once defined and enforced, make sure the reps know that you believe they have what it takes and they can improve; they can achieve the results for which they strive.

When you these seven steps, you can recruit better reps and develop high-performance cultures with today’s young people. You will coach them to sell beyond quota, above survival, and at activity levels necessary for the incomes they want.

Lance Cooper is a keynote speaker and author of Selling BEYOND Survival: The Essential System for High-Activity Sales Professionals. Lance is president of SalesManage Solutions, a company that teaches sales leaders how to recruit sales superstars and coach teams to greatness. For more information email

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2013]

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