Sales Technologies: Closing the Generation Gap

Allen Malapit
September 10, 2018

Your best sales reps are often those with the most experience. These are the people who’ve been finding new business and closing deals for years. They have countless trade shows, sales meetings, and store visits under their belts, as well as a long list of customer relationships.

Having learned every sales trick in the book, they are truly masters of their craft. In many of the sales trainings we do, however, sales managers often voice concerns that their older rep force might not be ready (or willing) to use any kind of new technology, let alone sales order management software.

While we totally understand these apprehensions, the fact is, age isn’t really a factor in whether or not a sales rep will be able to successfully use sales order management technology. In fact, it can be an advantage—especially when they're equipped with an order entry app for iPad.

Sales Technologies for Every Generation

The perpetual acceleration of technological advancement has showed no signs of slowing in recent years. Although some are quick to point out that technology adoption seems to be lower among older adults than among the general population—77% of adults over 65 have a mobile phone, for instance, as opposed to 91% of all adults—the tides are changing.

The big difference today is that devices are cleaner, simpler, and more intuitive than ever before. As devices become less novel and more seamlessly integrated into people’s everyday lives, age is becoming less of a factor in the adoption of new technology. And if the app in question is created with usability in mind, it will be simple enough for anyone (from baby boomers to millennials) to access with ease.

Case In Point: Larry Winderbaum

Larry Winderbaum is at the helm of an independent rep firm called New York Reps. Larry has been in sales for years, moving up the ladder from sales rep, to regional manager, to international sales manager. When he started his own rep firm, he focused on the gift market, now selling to retailers that include Barnes & Noble, MoMA, and Century 21.

Larry was an early adopter of order management technology, and has since shared how it has “totally changed [his] life,” eliminating 95% of errors in the order writing process and completely cutting out the two- to three-day order submission delays that were once a stubborn—and exasperating—regularity. He no longer has to spend time or money on order entry, and both he and his reps are much happier for it. Larry is 69 years of age, and says, “I don’t really text, but I use Handshake.”

The Advantages of Experience

Larry was well-positioned to take off once he had order management software at his fingertips. Indeed, while veteran sales reps may need a bit more training in order to make sure they’re getting the most out of their technology tools, they stand to be extremely successful once they’re well-versed in all of the functionalities available to them. After all, the point of an iPad order entry app is to act as a complement to the existing sales relationship. It helps you provide the best possible customer experience to your retailers by enabling you to:

  1. Display all your product lines in a visual, digital format.
  2. Waste less of your buyer’s time by sending orders digitally (vs. writing them down by hand and processing via fax, mail, or data entry).
  3. Ship their products faster.
  4. Eliminate errors.
  5. Suggest convenient, interactive filling orders via email that they can adjust and confirm themselves.

Chances are, veteran road warriors don’t have a shortage of strong connections with buyers, and providing a modern customer experience can both strengthen those existing relationships and remind their customers that they’re on top of critical trends in their field. Ultimately, technology is about people. It’s about making lives easier. As these sales technologies become more robust and intuitive, the barriers to entry lower dramatically.

Obviously, experienced reps possess the agility to respond to market transformations and keep their businesses relevant. By combining their experience with the right tools, they’ll be more productive and successful than ever. Says Larry in this gem of a quote: “I’m not tech savvy. I only use my iPad for Handshake."