Once distributors have begun transitioning their sales force, they are faced with a new challenge: How to get these young professionals, who typically switch jobs every three years, to stay.

“You’ve got to accept that the sales rep of old that stuck around for 30 years is not going to exist anymore,” says Wendover. “People are more contractual in their relationships, so even the best sales person who loves it there feels an itch to move on.”

While distributors can’t stop these employees from leaving, they can focus their efforts on recruiting sales reps that are a good match for their company.

“We need to do a better job of hiring the best people in the first place through personality testing, asking questions and finding out everything we can to determine if this is a really good match,” says Wendover.

He also recommends distributors look out for “signs of leaving behavior.” For instance, a change in attitude or clothing or a change in how someone interacts with others could indicate a desire to leave.

“If you watch these signs you can approach the person and ask them what’s going on,” says Wendover. “Not all of them will admit it, but some might say, ‘I don’t like it here’ or ‘I feel restless,’ and then you can talk about it. In the process, you can find ways to retain that person because they see that you’re making an effort to connect with them.”

Last but not least, distributors need to make their workplace attractive to young professionals. 

“Millennials want companies with strong values,” says Newton. “They care about the environment a great deal more than our generation, and they’re more likely to get on board with a company that’s thinking about these things. They want straight feedback, directive sales managers and flexibility.”

While there is a tendency to be dismissive of Millennials, Newton feels they are valuable assets to any business.

“If you want to know how to best train them, get their input,” she urges. “They are masters at using resources on the Internet, and they can really help if you let them.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.

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Bridging The Generation Gap