How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness?

Dave Kurlan, Objective Management Group

I'll be 64 in November which means that just like everyone else, I'm getting older. There are certain things that younger people do that change when they get older.

For example, younger adults :

  • go to bars and night clubs but tend to choose dinners out or nights at home binge watching TV when they become more mature
  • go to concerts but tend to choose movies when they get older
  • backpack across the US or Europe but tend to choose cruises as they age
  • want freedom at work but are more open to structure and accountability when they become more mature
  • focus on themselves but tend to focus on their children and then their grandchildren when they become older

The same applies to salespeople. Young salespeople (0-2 years experience) tend to wing it, while older salespeople (20 or more years experience) tend to be more skilled and structured. Want proof? Let's dig into the data.

young-v-old

On average, older salespeople are 105% more likely to be strong and effective than young salespeople.

But let's dig even deeper. The biggest differentiator between younger and older salespeople is the Qualifier competency. Older salespeople know that if they don't qualify, they may be wasting their time, while younger salespeople are so thankful for the interest, they might skip qualifying altogether. Look at the specific attributes of the Qualifier competency below.

young-v-old-qualifier-1

Notice that as we keep digging, one finding stands out as a difference maker and in the case of the Qualifier competency, it's self-limiting beliefs where older salespeople are 213% more likely to have supportive beliefs around qualifying than their younger counterparts.

The biggest differences between young and old salespeople are not skill-related. They are self-limiting beliefs.
Dave Kurlan

If we dig in on self-limiting beliefs, we'll find that two self-limiting beliefs that stand out:

  • It's not polite to talk about people's money
  • I need my prospects to like me.

Those two self-limiting beliefs alone show that older salespeople are on average 55% more effective than younger salespeople. I wrote much more about self-limiting beliefs last month in this article. There are 21 Sales Core Competencies that Objective Management Group measures. You can see them here and learn how you compare.

It's not surprising to find that old salespeople are more effective than young salespeople but it is very surprising to learn that the biggest differentiators are not skill related. They are Self-Limiting Beliefs which are part of Sales DNA. If you look at the attributes that make up the Qualifier competency, you'll see that there isn't much difference between young and old salespeople on the skill-related attributes where young and old suck equally:

  • Meets with Decision Maker
  • Uncovers Actual Budget
  • Knows the Decision making process
  • Knows the Decision making criteria
  • Asks about Everything

On average, there is only an 8% difference between old and young on the 5 skill-related attributes. That doesn't say much for the older salespeople who simply didn't improve over their 20 plus years in sales.

Would you like to comment? Leave it on the LinkedIn discussion for this article.

PS: Please check out the Membrain Baseline Selling Edition - a CRM and Sales Enablement system that comes with my process and methodology pre-configured, including sales enablement resources and training videos. It's key to start helping your salespeople to consistently to a good job on every opportunity and start selling more consultatively.

Article originally published on Aug 19th, 2019 on
Dave Kurlan's blog
Dave Kurlan, Objective Management Group
Published October 6, 2019, written by

Dave Kurlan, Objective Management Group

Dave Kurlan is a top-rated speaker, best selling author, successful entrepreneur and sales development industry pioneer. The founder and CEO of the Objective Management Group, Inc., the leading developer of sales assessment tools, headquartered in Westboro, Massachusetts. He is also the CEO of Kurlan & Associates, Inc., a leading sales force development firm. He has 3 decades of experience in all facets of sales development, including consulting, training, coaching, selection, strategy, systems, processes, and metrics.

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