Wait… what if we called it “canr” instead of sales?

If someone who you just met told you that s/he was in sales, you’d probably want to know what product or service they sold, right?

What if the same person instead told you that s/he was in canr, you’d probably ask what is canr, right?

What if s/he told you that canr is an acronym for customer acquisition nurturing & retention, you probably would want to learn more, right?


And even if canr was the same as sales, it sounds a lot more interesting, doesn’t it?


Let me explain where I’m going with this!!


One day last week, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about an article I read earlier in the day.  Hate when that happens-to lose sleep over something so simple and straightforward. But, as I thought about it, it became clear why this issue was bugging me.  The title of the article was “why its so hard to fill sales jobs”.  The author did a pretty good job explaining in details as to  why millennials are no longer interested in sales as a career choice and you can read it here.


The reason why the article got me thinking was because I have worked my entire career strictly on commissions.  And today  I am actively recruiting sales professionals for a client who is looking to hire 1000 salespeople over the next two years. But, the more I thought about it. and after reading it a second time, I knew  why the disconnect exist between the younger generation and the traditional sales profession.  And, it also gave me clarity as to what I needed to do to successfully recruit the best of what that new generation of talent has to offer.


I have identified the three main reasons why sales is not an appealing career choice today and what employers need to do fill more sales positions.


The negative perception of sales is driven mostly by the fear of failure.


When I graduated college way back in the Reagan administration days, I was not interested in a career in sales. I too believed then the same things that millennials are saying today.  Sales is hardest work you can find. You work long & crappy hours and you may or may not get paid for the hours that you have worked.  It took me a while to realize that my perception of sales was driven mostly from the folks of my parents generation.  Folks in that generation were not impressed and would discourage anyone from taking a job that paid only  commissions.  A guaranteed salary with a big employer, they felt was a real job.  You can start a family with a guaranteed salary-its hard to settle-down when you are living on commissions.. The main reason why parents didn’t (back then and today) want their kids to go into sales is because they know of so many others who failed to make a decent living in sales.  No parent wants to see their own kids struggle financially,  so the fear of having to financially support an adult child was and still is perceived as the ultimate failure in the eyes of their peers.


What the millennial say about sales is true.


There’s no sense in sugar-coating it.  My first experience working in sales was exactly what the millennial are saying today.  I worked for an insurance company. They didn’t pay a salary; they said that I had limited work experience.  What was interesting was there were quite a number of twenty somethings like myself, who showed up everyday, dressed in our suit & ties, sitting at a desk in a backroom office on the telephone calling names on a list.  If you were fortunate enough to get a stranger to agree to meet with you, a manager would accompany you to that meeting with objectives of selling that individual some type of insurance product.  That is how we get paid- only if a product was sold.  The stress derived from working long hours without pay in a job where you are continuously rejected was enough to blind most of us from our vision of making a professional income in sales.


Sales is perceived as competition.


If you are not selling, you are a loser and losers get fired.  We saw that in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. That is the perception.  The drive to be perceived as a winner, sometimes brought out the worst qualities in a person.  Unfortunately, that is where the negative perception of the pushy used car salesman comes into play.   A lot of the selling techniques used back then appears to be a competition.  And the competition was between the salesperson and the customer. Instead of a win-win outcome for both when a sale was made, in reality it felt more like a win-lose situation-the salesman wins and the customer lose.


Those are the three main reasons why its hard to fill sales jobs. Now, here are the three things employers need to do today to fill more sales jobs.


Employers need to take the fear out of failure.  To do this, they need to:

  • Modernize the commission only compensation structure to include guaranteed salaries, full employee benefits in addition to other incentive compensation components.  Top talent won’t work for free today.
  • Place new hires in positions to succeed by providing them with up-to-date training, qualified leads, marketing and administrative support to better engage and collaborate with potential customer.
  • Encourage horizontal and vertical career transitions within your organization to stimulate engagement, reduce turnover and foster professional growth.


Final thoughts

Today, recruiting quality sales professionals is no longer about enticing a bunch of young people into a back office  by placing an ad offering a business opportunity with high income potential.  And the training in no longer just giving them a desk, telephone and list of names to see  which ones has what it takes.  These are sons and daughters who are saddled with hefty student obligations,and are the ones that has taken the biggest economical hit from the great recession.

Maybe we shouldn’t stop at changing the word sales.  We should also refrain from using words like business development, pitch, prospect, validation, quota, cold call, objections, close, prospecting, pipeline and all the other words that links to the traditional sales tactics.   And in addition, instead of requiring the traditional suit & tie manner of dressing, maybe employers should embrace individuality such as hip hop, Mohawk, earrings, tattoos and all the latest trends that are appealing to the younger generation.  The world is changing fast and so is the profession of sales. However, what remains the same today is that nothing happens until a sale is made.  So, if employers cannot sell the young talent on such a lucrative career opportunity, how can they expect the young talent to sell their product or services to customers.