Tips and advice from sales expert Babette Ten Haken.

March 7, 2016

5 Min Read
Can a Multigenerational Workforce Sell Effectively? With the Right Strategy, You Bet

By Babette Ten Haken 1

There is a lot being written about tomorrow’s workforce, which will be multigenerational and decentralized.

In my last three articles for MSPMentor, you and I explored how to: a) position your company to attract and nurture millennials, b) encourage increasingly impatient GenXers waiting for their turn to lead, and c) utilize your Boomers as internal coaches and mentors.

At the end of the day, all of these great ideas seem like sprinkles on your business cupcake. You have a problem. Your sales teams continue to underperform.

However, there’s a bigger problem. You are open to exploring the concept of a multigenerational workforce. Yet your company still regards the sales function with the same-old mindset. That is the legacy ideology holding your company back from moving forward.

I had the opportunity to speak about these issues with many MSPs, CSPs and VARs while at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Orlando last month. Like you, these business leaders struggle to identify an innovative strategy to move the performance needle of their entire sales team, not just the top 20 percent.

Based on common themes running across our discussions, I offer three strategic areas to focus on.

  1. Your GenX sales people are your revenue status quo. Your sales team is comprised of many successful GenX sales people as well as Boomers. Let’s talk about those GenXers. These folks are professional sales people. They have made a very good living representing your company’s product and service offerings. Their efforts now account for more than 75 percent of your gross annual revenue. They learned to sell 10-20 years ago. Your GenX sales people are disinclined to make changes to how, what, when and where they sell. They are quite comfortable where they are, thank you. Your GenX sales people have mortgages tied directly to working with your company. Their children are about to go to college, or have recently graduated, thanks to their working with your company. These folks just may be the rock upon which your current company is built. They represent your status quo; your attitudes towards them represent your status quo. This scenario is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is time to acknowledge the breadth and depth of influence your GenX sales people have over your current business and revenue models. Stop obsessing over their performance. Start focusing on people and processes you are overlooking.

  2. Your non-sales people are your untapped sales people. In the globally competitive business ecosystem, revenue generation is everyone’s responsibility regardless of whether it is stated in their job descriptions. You have individuals working within your current organization who understand the breadth and depth of your company’s and your clientele’s operational processes and procedures. Chances are, over the years, they are your unsung heroes and heroines who have turned under-specified proposals into works of art. Your allegedly non-sales staff includes those quirky sales engineers whom your sales people tend to marginalize. These people are your unofficial sales team members: they are happy to tell you they “don’t know how to sell.” Who is kidding whom? Your sales people know who they are. These resources are your company ambassadors. Their daily conversations, which are amazingly sales-oriented by the way, make your company look good, really good. These folks have far more contacts throughout your client’s organizations than your salespeople do. What if you redefined their roles more holistically? What if your “non-sales, but really sales” people became part of your sales team from the beginning of the sales process? What would their impact be on your order-to-invoice-to-payment process?

  3. In your multi-generational workforce, Everyone Sells. There is no doubt that you will be hiring millennials to join your workforce. This phenomenon is inevitable, based on demographics. When your organization focuses on creating a Roadmap and Playbook for achieving this cultural endpoint, workplace dynamics transition and transform. Here is where your Status Quo GenX sales and business models hit the plate tectonics of Tomorrow’s Revenue Stream. The success of this strategy rests firmly in your organization’s ability to hire for and hybridize your current and future workforce’s skill sets. If your strategy simply is to hire a bunch of bodies and throw yet another sales training program at them, well, have things really changed all that much from the way they are today? A multi-generational workforce where Everyone Sells has a real buzz to it. It is high-energy, focusing everyone on thinking on their feet while learning the operational processes and practices which underpin every sale, implementation, upgrade and maintenance contract. These factors are workplace attributes which allegedly are supposed to appeal to millennials. They sound appealing to anyone who wants to become “more” than what they are today.

What is interesting about implementing these strategies is that traditional departmental silos tend to develop holes. Professional disciplines start to cross-pollinate. Your workforce becomes smarter and more savvy, even those seemingly inflexible GenXers. Your company becomes a go-to destination for highly skilled, innovative professionals.

Sit and have a think about what your peers and I have been discussing. There is no “magic wand” or quick fix involved in achieving these revenue and workforce endpoints. However, the strategy involved is a sure-fire way of getting your company unstuck from spinning its revenue and performance wheels. Chances are you will open doors to new clients and new marketplaces in the process.

Babette N. Ten Haken is a strategist, analyst, author and blogger. She works with companies wrestling with unpredictable revenue streams. Her Workshops target excellence in the execution of strategy. Babette began her career in clinical research where she was asked to bring clarity to stalemated cross-functional conversations. Her Playbook of collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business?  is available on She writes for IBM, Penton, and other brands in the technology sector. 

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