It’s ironic that many of the traits undervalued in the corporate environment – age, experience, wisdom, and gray hair – can actually add to consultant credentials. In other words, the very traits that may have kept sales professionals from being listened to and valued during the latter part of their corporate careers will very likely serve them well as sales consultants. Let’s take a closer look at why:
Age Discrimination is Real
In a recent Washington Post article titled “Baby boomers are taking on ageism — and losing”, the persistent reality of age discrimination becomes pointedly clear. “At a time when conditions have vastly improved for women, gay people, disabled people and minorities in the workplace,” the Post reports, “prejudice against older workers remains among the most acceptable and pervasive ‘isms’.”
The article goes on to say that changes in the modern workplace “have created new types of ageism that are more subtle and widespread,” and that companies sometimes favor younger employees who don’t carry the financial baggage of higher salaries, pensions and healthcare costs.
Beyond this, “millennials” find older workers to be the “biggest roadblocks” to their own advancement according to a 2015 Harris Poll. This is echoed by Michael North, an assistant professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, who states that “younger people tend to resent it when older workers don’t “get out of the way” and retire.”
Age discrimination also plays a large role when senior leaders are looking for their next sales leadership role. After all, you can only hide your age from a new company for so long. Roles you once would have been a “shoo-in” for, you now find that you aren’t even in the running.
Making Lemonade from Lemons to Elevate Your Consultant Credentials
Many senior sales professionals wake up to find they no longer have the organizational clout they once enjoyed. They sense a creeping disaffection from those in charge in favor of the younger up-and-comer. And as those in the C-suite themselves become younger, aging sales leaders may find their experience carrying less weight, while “fresh” ideas from younger salespeople – even clearly misguided ideas – gain favor.
Such is often the plight of the seasoned sales professional in the large corporate environment. It’s a story many of our licensed Advisors at Sales Xceleration relate to because they, too, are often richly experienced corporate sales refugees. What they have found, however, is that the baggage of being older in a large corporate environment becomes a plus and adds to their consultant credentials when they provide outsourced sales solutions to small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). They find that owners of these businesses are often desperate for the kind of wisdom and direction that can only come from many years of success in the sales industry – wisdom they typically haven’t had access to in the past.
The “Sully” Factor
In fact, it’s been our experience – shared with so many of our Advisors – that the SMB owner who may be reluctant to put faith in a younger sales consultant often finds comfort and value in having a more experienced consultant beside them at the controls. Let’s call this the “Sully” factor, in honor of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Sully, as you’ll recall, was the “Hero of the Hudson” who, in 2009, successfully landed US Airways flight 1549 on New York’s Hudson River after an in-flight emergency, saving 155 passengers and crew. SMB owners are not unlike the frightened passengers on that flight, comforted and relieved to have a deeply experienced and wise pilot at the helm. And because many of these smaller businesses turn to consultants when their business is in a serious decline, this reliance on competence enhanced with wisdom only makes sense.
The Bottom Line:
As sales professionals approach or pass age 50, their large corporate employers may begin to favor younger sales executives who are believed to have more energy and newer ideas. The truth is, however, that the seasoned sales professional knows how to work smarter and focus on ideas and initiatives with proven results that can quickly escalate a company’s bottom line. In the smaller business environment, their gray hair is no longer a negative, but rather a badge of honor, recognized as having been earned via many years of success in some of the toughest sales environments around. Small business owners can more easily value this wisdom and experience. And they are often surprised to learn that a top sales professional they could never afford to hire full-time can bring tremendous return on investment in short-term or part-time consultant engagements.
To learn more about the experience of Sales Xceleration’s licensed Advisors and how they serve smaller businesses with big-business experience and insights, contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.