Sales competitiveness is a definite; ‘must have’ criteria quoted to me by most sales managers in the software sales industry and rightly so. Sales and selling in an IT software context gets complex and a tenacious and competitive mindset is vital in order to thrive. Yet many sales managers make the assumption that a younger sales exec will deliver more; well hang on to your hats folks as I sense I am going to challenge your thinking in the next few minutes.
I suspect many people reading this came here to disagree with this concept. I am sorry to disappoint you as there is growing evidence that 40 something software sales execs are likely to be much more competitive than you realise. If you sit down and think about what makes someone competitive, or at least able to utilise that skill some logical facts will jump out at you.
First let me share data that will prove 40 something’s just might be a good bet to employ as, a valued member of your sales team.
One of the first books to discuss the subject was written in the 1930’s by a guy named Napoleon Hill. It was inspired by a suggestion from Andrew Carnegie; then one of the richest men in America. He encouraged Hill to go out and interview the most successful businessmen in the United States and uncover what the common themes and patterns were. The book is still available today and is called Think and Grow Rich; by 2011 it had sold over 70 million copies worldwide and is still ranked in BusinessWeek Magazines top ten bestselling business book list.
One particular chapter revealed the fact that the two hundred individuals analysed in the book started to come into their own over the age of thirty five with a peak as they approached fifty. Fast forward to the present day and we see the likes of Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and James Caan proving the theory.
Still unsure; how about this? A research team from the University of Oregon carried out a study that was later reported in the journal of Psychology and Aging. It was conducted at a shopping center. Passers-by were recruited to participate by the promise of earning anywhere from $2 to $15, “depending on their decisions and performance.” In the end, 543 people between the ages of 25 and 75 took part. After a couple of practice rounds, each was instructed to perform “a simple mental arithmetic task.” They could either receive a fixed-rate payment of 25 cents per correct item, or opt for a competitive payment plan. If they chose the latter, they would be paid 50 cents per correct item, but only if they outscored a randomly chosen earlier participant.
So who was most willing to take a chance and double their money? The answer, by a wide margin, was men between the ages of 45 and 54. Both younger and older men were less willing to take the bet.
The researchers noted that within this 45-54 age range there was a need for social dominance and in most cultures successfully engaging in competitions is a recognised way to establish this.
These are just two sources of information freely available that challenge current thinking. Add into this the fact that the 40 something’s have a level of experience, knowledge, gravitas and an acute awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and you might just agree that I am onto something.