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Who Wants a Sales Job Now?

Jeff Welcher

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Salespeople get a bad rap, and that's to be expected. Who's to blame? Years of conditioning and an overly-optimistic picture of the working world engrained in the minds of those born in the 1970's and 1980's.

Today's Millennials have been conditioned by societal upbringings to dislike and disrespect salespeople. They have seen comedic interpretations of them on television; read jokes about them in R-rated magazines like Maxim, FHM and Stuff. They have been aggressively hassled by young teenagers for years at multi-price-point conglomerate marketing-machines like Gap Inc. * and Abercrombie & Fitch**.

They have been raised thinking that ‘they can do anything they want’ and that if they work hard enough, they can have any job they desire, no matter how exclusive. If this were really true, no one would be the guy with the trash tongs stumbling around the local carnival. Everyone would be lawyers, doctors and astronauts. Not sales representatives, brand ambassadors, product consultants and account executives. No one in their right mind goes out and desires a sales position.

In the past, such a desire may have been the case as the lure of [seemingly] ceiling-less income and travel opportunities were desirable career traits. Now as the Millennial generation and bookended generations joining the workforce, young workers desire more and expect no less than a steady income without the hassle of having to ‘sell’ strangers on our products and services. They don't want to do something as meaningless as researching prospects and generating proposals. They have been told they can have an impact, change the world - and do things that our overly-optimistic society has led them to believe they are entitled to. Sound different than past generations?

It is not that an 18-year old of the 1950's was any more ambitious about sales positions, it is more that education and social awareness about the trials and tribulations of sales jobs had not yet hit the mainstream. Coupled with this and of significant importance: people used to be a lot more welcoming to salespeople. They appreciated someone calling them or dropping by their office randomly, and gave them respect well beyond what we can imagine today. Because of these and similar factors, perspective salespeople went into the field with a positive outlook and a genuine possibility of success.

Today's salespeople likely go into the field for the following reasons:

a) They are desperate for any paying job.
b) They are fooled by promises of outstanding commissions-based wealth.
c) Encouraged by their family/friends, they are giving it a ‘fair shot. '

New salespeople don't realize that today's sales model operates on a ‘churn-em-and-burn-em’ approach. That they're quota performance will be more important than their first names. That they're only as valuable as their ‘activity levels’. That those with terrible ethics and business acumen will likely be their toughest competition. That their first foray into sales will likely be their last. And most notably, that 90 percent of the faces they see around them in their training classes will be ghosts within six months.

These are all the realities of today's sales environment. With these facts on the table, you can't blame today's young professionals for steering clear of all things sales.

*Old Navy, The Gap, Banana Republic and Piperlime
**Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie, Hollister Co, RUEHL No 925 and Gilly Hicks: Sydney

Jeff Welcher is an employee benefits consultant at CompPayPlus, located in Rochester, NY and serving all 50 states. He is a Master's graduate of the Annenberg School of Communication (USC) and is an avid golfer and mountain biker.

CompPayPlus can be found at


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