2020 is to be the year of changing sales and buying demographics.

Why?

Retiring baby boomers.

Approximately fifty percent of the workforce will be comprised of millennials by the year 2020.

Because many sales teams are composed largely of sales professionals aged 55 or over, this presents a major challenge. Some baby boomers have already started to retire and that means jobs need to be filled.

Many of these positions have been held by experienced sales professionals for many years. These boomers have extensive product and industry knowledge and great customer relationships – all things that could potentially be lost when they go.

How can you ensure these opening positions are filled with skilled and qualified sales professionals?

Start planning now.

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Here are 7 simple strategies to help you begin your succession plan:

  1. Have a coaching conversation with your senior reps. You can no longer force retirement at age 65 according to the Canadian Human Rights Code. This means some boomers may choose not to retire until later. Even though you can’t force retirement, you can ask coach-like questions to identify their goals toward retirement and to make succession planning smooth. Both parties should openly communicate their expectations moving forward, to ensure the continued success of the company.
  2. Offer flexible working schedules to accommodate the boomers who may want to phase out of their position gradually. Some boomers reaching retirement age may want to continue to work, but only on a part-time basis. By offering a flexible work schedule you can make this transition smoother for all parties involved.
  3. Create a farm team of upcoming sales professionals to step into the roles as boomers leave. Having a trained and prepared sales professional ready to step into the role will avoid the awkward and clunky transition from a seasoned sales professional to a new hire or transitioning worker.
  4. Hire millennials into entry-level sales and marketing positions and provide them with a career pathway. By hiring millennials into your business you can help ensure the future success of your company, while ensuring the success of the next generation.
  5. Mentorship is a great way to help transition sales professionals into senior roles―whether it be new hires or existing workers. Mentoring creates a support system for both incoming employees and for millennial mentoring outgoing boomers, and it ensures company knowledge and existing customer relationships are passed along to the incoming employee.
  6. Special projects/assignments are a good way to help keep boomers involved in a transition role. These special projects could include customer relationship management, product training programs, customer service roles, or marketing or inside sales.
  7. Be sure the candidate taking over has the correct temperament for the position. If you are promoting from within, be sure that the position change is welcomed by them, and that their temperament is suited for the job in need of filling. Often, the top-salespeople are promoted to managerial positions, but they are not suited for office work and find it stifling.

Remember this: Soon-to-retire boomers still want to retain a sense of importance within the company while training another sales professional to occupy the soon-to-be-vacant position.