A roadmap to modernise your salesforce with millennials
The global workforce is experiencing a generational shift: By 2020, millennials will represent the largest generation in the workplace, at 35%, while the share of baby boomers will drop to 22%.
This presents an especially challenging forecast for manufacturing sales teams, many of which consist largely of baby boomers who are expected to retire in the next 10-15 years. With 85% of current sales people saying they would recommend a career in sales to a young person, there is significant potential for millennials to find fulfilling careers in manufacturing sales. The global salesforce is forecasted to remain relatively stable through 2020, at .46% compound annual growth rate—good news for millennials, who are likely to prioritize job security over other considerations.
So, how can manufacturing companies attract this new generation of sellers? It starts with careful planning and gaining clarity about what millennials want and need in a job.
Play up the opportunity to become a specialist
Like most other generations, compensation represents the No. 1 factor that affects millennials’ assessment of a potential job. But they’re also looking for a company and role that speaks to their individual values and interests. Recent graduates with an engineering background may not have considered sales as a career path, but manufacturing sales affords millennials the opportunity to develop expertise in fascinating, cutting-edge technology. Play up the exciting technology behind your company’s automated sensors or the new software powering its robotics division.
Update your internal tech tools
Millennials don’t just want the opportunity to sell the latest technology; they expect technology to power their everyday work. As a digital-first generation, millennials live on their smartphones, and bring strong technical knowledge to the table. Companies that provide technology tools, especially those that incorporate your proven sales methodology, demonstrate they’re prepared for the future.
Make sure your company and the prospect are a good match
If your company hopes to attract millennials, it needs to apply a forward-thinking approach. This includes your business practices and ethics, work-life balance and the flexibility of the work environment.
As with any role and potential hire, your sales and human resources departments should have a solid definition of the characteristics, skills and personality traits that will make a millennial applicant a good fit. Employ talent and skills assessments during your interview process to help ensure a cultural fit and determine where their strengths can serve your company — and how you can develop their skills once they are on board.
Develop training programs that go beyond the technical
Millennials may possess extensive technical knowledge that helps them understand the technical aspects of manufacturing sales. But with the increase in the number of stakeholders involved in the manufacturing sales decision making process, it’s just important to spend time training and coaching them on best practices on connecting with customers as it is understanding a product’s purpose. Young sellers need to identify and speak to the value of solutions based on each person’s valid business reasons.
Organizations that blend sales training with technical and product training achieve greater success—companies whose reps exceed client expectations in providing insights and perspectives have win rates 12.4% higher than those who simply meet expectations.
Invest in long-term development and retention
While millennials have higher rates of turnover than prior generations, they’re likely to return loyalty when they receive it from an employer. Millennials who believe their companies exhibit a high-trust culture are 22 times more likely to want to work there for a long time.
Companies can demonstrate this trust by investing in millennial sellers for the long-term. Ask millennials about their career priorities, such as participating in the launch of a new technology. Help them envision a long future at your company by setting benchmark goals and drawing up career paths. Give them opportunities to show their capacity to lead from the beginning.
With unemployment rates at historic lows, millennials know they have choices when it comes to their next employers. Manufacturing sales organizations have an opportunity to sell themselves and prove their worth as an attractive workplace.
By Pamela Hammers, independent sales consultant, Miller Heiman Group
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.