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I posted a question on an automotive forum two days ago, asking what are some of the most motivational pay-plans around the country for sales staff. It has gotten five pages worth of comments, and it all seems to boil down to one question/problem; how do the traditional commission industries attract the new generation of college graduates and young professionals?
There are three driving psychological factors that need to be met to usher in the next generation of sales professionals:
My Grandmother was always chastising me about any waste, even went so far as to give me a what-for over a large package of chocolate chip cookies I had bought our son while visiting her. I can still hear her barking, "he is never going to finish those, and you are not throwing them out". Anyone in my age group, I am 43, has an older relative that acts as the financial conscience. We all know where that comes from, The Great Depression. My Grandmother's generation was stamped with the psychological damage from this financial collapse decades later.
The Gen-Yer's, have now lived through the second largest financial decline in our nation's history, and it is completely shaping their view on financial risk. When I began as a commission salesperson there was never any thought in my head of the potential problems that could arise from working in a commission only industry. It seemed that while I was young, and short on large financial commitments, it was the perfect time to take a job that had a high ceiling even if there was this chance of not earning a living. This is not how today's graduates are viewing the world. They have seen the product of the 80's and 90's willingness to step into risk, and it was the Crash of 2008.
This doesn't mean industries like the automotive industry can't be viable options for a career. We just need to cater to this insecurity. Here is a small example of being creative to help talented newcomers consider the sales floor. I suggested a college loan repayment program for new hires with an associates or above. Have a predetermined maximum amount per month, and duration limit and use this as an incentive to get the brightest minds to choose your business.
Culture is word that everyone keeps throwing around, in regard to businesses that are the most desirable to work for, but there is very little talk about what that means. One of the key elements of this culture we are all seeking is brand identity. More specifically how one is viewed based on their association to a business or product. It shapes who applies to our business.
There has been a sharp change how products and stores are presenting themselves. When I grew up we had Crazy Eddie screaming about Christmas in July sales. He would jump around, yell like a maniac, and be INSANE!! (reference to how he described his sales, for those that never saw it) What have been the biggest sale announcements today? Steve Jobs standing on a stage alone in a black mock turtle neck, while a small crowd quietly waits to applaud. This is what this generation has associated with the most successful companies.
Loud, crazy advertisements aren't working any longer to drive in sales, and they are counter-intuitive to the brand image that this next generation of employees wants to associate themselves with. It is time to make our employees the face of our company, they are the greatest advertisement for the sales floor and possible incoming employees. Seemed to work out well for Apple.
Inclusion in a group movement is an underrated, but extremely important part of what attracts employees. A recent example is the Tea Party Movement and the Walk on Wall Street. Having the ability to claim ownership of an ideal, and feeling empowered to have an effect are key motivational elements.
This doesn't mean you need to align your business with a political cause (as a matter of fact it is probably suicide), but you need to let applicants know how you impact the community and their potential role in that. When hiring for my company, much of our communication with applicants was about having the ability to help connect the millions of unemployed in this country with opportunities that could help them feed their families. We are a recruitment company that specializes in using personal phone interviews instead of electronic screening to help employers and applicants. Our employees are passionate about the idea that every applicant gets a real personal interview that applies, because they understand how awful it is to send out a hundred resumes and never talk to a person. This is a cause they can get behind, and puts our business a cut above the rest competing for young talent.
I hope this gives some of my colleagues around the country a little insight into speaking to the next generation. We would love some other thoughts and examples from businesses around the country.
Please feel free to comment, love or hate, or inbox me with a question for your business. Have a prosperous day :-)
Gregory Gershman, Managing Partner, Recruitment HQ