By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

I am often asked by my clients, “What kind of background should we look for when hiring salespeople?” Historically I have advised them that, in my opinion, a background in selling professional services typically is the best indicator of the future success of a salesperson. My rationale? If you can sell a complete intangible, i.e. no “product” to demo, then you can probably sell just about anything.

communicationThen along came Gen Y and the Millenials.

Good, bad or otherwise, the latest pool of sales recruits – those either recently graduated or graduating now – are woefully unprepared not only for Sales, but for any aspect of corporate life that involves either communication skills, or God forbid, honest critique of their work.

Let me address the first point.

The last generation-plus of humans have grown up with a dearth of live communication. When I call my kids on their cell phones, they won’t answer. When I text them immediately after hanging up, I get an immediate response. Whether it’s apathy on our part or obstinacy on theirs, the reality of the situation is that verbal communication is a dying art.

So what I now recommend to my clients, no matter what it is their company sells, is to change their hiring model and grab anyone with a degree in Communications first and foremost. It’s easy to teach someone the technical aspects of a product, but teaching them how to have a conversation, especially when the buyer is 20-plus years their senior, is exponentially more difficult.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a solution for the latter. The “helicopter parents” of the world have done a pretty good job of convincing every kid that they are uniquely brilliant and produce work without equal. In that case, there is no substitute for good old scar tissue.

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