In sales . . . does age matter?

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In the “new normal” of today’s business world, making sound business decisions is critical to not only one’s success, but also to one’s survival. It is especially critical when evaluating personnel. Selecting and hiring a candidate for a position requires hiring the right person, at the right time, with the right qualifications. Hiring the right sales person is an important decision for any company and there are many factors that go into the decision and numerous things to consider. You need to find the right qualities, attributes, and skill set. The question is should age matter?

With the job market still recovering from the “great recession” many older sales professionals (50+) find themselves “seeking new opportunities” in an already difficult jobs market. While numerous positions are available, many “tenured” sales professionals are having a more difficult time than their younger counterparts. Why, because believe it not there are many sales managers and VP’s of Sales that consider age a barrier.

While it isn’t always obvious, many “tenured” sale reps are challenged by an age bias and are often disqualified or outright rejected because of their supposed lack of creativity, passion, high energy, and innovation. They also are questioned on their ability to quickly come up to speed, succeed in a fast-paced environment, or even adapt to new methods and terminologies. Most of these terms or phases are just code words for “too old”.

According to a recent article posted by Steve W. Martin of the Heavy Hitter Sales Blog, younger sales managers have five basic fears about hiring someone older than them.

1) They are un-coachable – meaning they won’t take direction and are set in their ways.

2) They aren’t technically savvy – where as they haven’t ingrained technology into their daily working routine, (ie, Sales Force Automation tools, email, and yes even Smart Phones) Also included was not being up to date on internet technology like Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

3) They are washed up – meaning they are suffering from “burn out” from too many years of carrying a bag.

4) They have poor work ethics. They question how hard these “tenured” sales professionals will work given family, personal, or even health reasons.

5) They really want my job. The biggest fear is that they are actually worried that an older sales person might upstage him in front of senior management.

As someone who is falls into this category (50+), when I first read this I was somewhat surprised and taken aback.  What ever happened to “experience is the best teacher” mentality? However, the more I thought about it I realized that this is just another prejudice that exists in today’s challenging jobs market. These same fears (aka ignorance) can be associated with any other demographic (race, creed, gender, etc.) in our society.

Every situation is different and each and every opportunity has those proverbial “pros” and “cons”. Finding the “right” fit for your individual skills set, attributes, and unique qualities, requires effort. Regardless of what demographic you might fall into, if you are “seeking new opportunities”, make sure you articulate what you bring to the party and the value that you have to offer. Don’t let age or any other bias discourage you in your quest.

A final note on the age issue: Top Sales World recently announced its Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2013. It might surprise you how many of the award winners are over 50.

In sales . . . does age matter?

Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.

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Categories: Sales

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