Career, Job Hunting, Sales

Does Generation-Y Hate Sales Jobs?

26 Comments 15 July 2012

A few weeks ago I moved down to DC to start the next phase of my life. My girlfriend, Erica, will be moving out here in the fall so I figured I would get a head start on her and get a job and apartment and all the “fun” stuff of moving to a new place.

I thought I wouldn’t be particularly picky about the next job I pick up, but it turns out there is one type of job that I’m particularly averse to:

Sales Jobs

While I’m pretty sure my INTJ personality type has something to do with it, I’m guessing a lot of millenials are grossed out for the same reasons. Here’s why I think Gen-Y hates sales jobs.

1. Sales seems dishonest. Unless you believe in the product you’d feel gross peddling it. While Apple can easily brainwash its sales associates into working for relatively low pay, businesses without a brilliant marketing team or cult like following will find it hard to recruit Millenials into their sales teams.

2. Sales is a decidedly non-collaborative profession. While I love working alone, apparently Gen-Y loves working on teams. Sales is traditionally viewed as a competitive, testosterone driven profession. Gen-Y is of the “everyone is a winner” mindset.

3. Sales jobs are more risky. Gen Y is less willing to try things they’re not already good at. The sucky economy definitely doesn’t help. When most of your pay is commission based, that barista job paying $12/hour looks much more appealing.

4. Traditional sales relies on motivation of big, cash wins. Gen-Y is all about doing things they’re passionate about. To be fair, Gen-Y loves money and spending it in hipster coffee shops (like the one I’m sitting in now), but it’s a secondary motivator.

5. Most sales jobs focus on selling, not on partnerships and relationships. This is not as obvious as it appears. Sales jobs  that focus more on the language of business development and on developing partnerships and relationships have a lot more appeal than the sales-speak of “Earn 6 figures a year!” I imagine that if companies turned their sales jobs into business development positions they would be a lot more appealing to Millenials. For example, I read the book SPIN Selling and it focuses primarily on how to ask questions to determine a potential client’s explicit needs. It was less about selling and more about investigation and exploration. I became much more excited about sales after I read that book.

7. Cold-calling is gross. Gen-Y is pretty averse to regular phone calls, not to mention calling up a complete stranger and asking them to buy whatever crap you’re selling.

I’d love to hear from any Gen-Y members who work in sales. What motivates you? Why did you get into sales? Would you recommend it to others?


  • Jonathan Vaudreuil

    I’m technically Gen Y and manage nothing but Gen Y, so here’s my take on your numbered points.

    1. Sales is not dishonest. The problem is that many Sales reps learn that if they promise certain things they’ll get more Sales. Worst part? Many companies state they CAN get those results, which eventually translates to a virtual promise – or worse, a guarantee.

    2. Sales is non-collaborative if you want to work with your own employees. It’s very collaborative if you’re interested in working openly and honestly with your customers.

    3. Sales jobs ARE riskier. Kinda. Most jobs don’t have the immediate feedback loop Sales has, which is why many Gen Y get stuck making $30K – they can’t prove they’re accomplishing anything because they’re a cog in a wheel.

    4. Sales relies on people looking to make deals, not “big cash wins.” My first Sales position was 100% about the 2nd sale and beyond, because that’s when we made our money with a customer. It was about building long-lasting relationships.

    5. By now you should see a trend – I’ve always focused on relationships in Sales, not selling.

    6. Since you don’t seem to have a six, let me create one – Sales is a job full of constant learning. If there’s one thing Gen Y wants, it’s to be in a constant state of learning. Factor in the instead feedback loop and you have one of the best jobs to learn a lot, fast, because you have to.

    7. Cold-calling is tough. I’ve met one human being who enjoyed it. One. At the same time, it’s a great way to learn how to get someone’s attention over the phone. It also gets the ball rolling while a Salesperson starts building a client-base and connections that will help get referrals and warm leads.

    • DaleDavidson149

      Hey Jonathan,

      Thanks for commenting. I was hoping you’d weigh in ;).

      I’ll respond to your points:

      1. Sales by itself is not dishonest, but I wonder if it encourages a culture of dishonesty. It’s human nature to “game” whatever metrics are being used to measure individual performance. Unfortunately, this spills over to other areas as well. But, you’re correct and I don’t think there’s anything inherently dishonest with sales. There is that perception though.

      2. I think sales is less collaborative than other professions. Nothing wrong with that, but I think Gen-Y loves collaboration a lot more. Do sales people ever get rewarded as a team?

      3. I concur. We should probably take into account the wide variety of sales jobs though. Apple sales associates don’t make much because I think apple products mostly sell themselves. Even though the feedback loop is pretty transparent, it’s hard to determine how much had to do with the sales person and how much was marketing or other factors.

      4. Depends on the company I guess, but it does say something about sales as a profession when after the deal is closed it gets handed off to an account manager.

      5. It’s probably why you’re a good salesman.

      6. Everyone wants to learn, not just Gen Y. It’s a fundamentally human desire. However, I think Gen Y needs to believe in the bigger picture. For example, even though there’s a lot to learn in say…industrial chemicals sales, it’s hardly inspiring. At least at the point when you’re trying to figure out what jobs to reply to.

      7. I think cold calling will disappear. I’m a big fan of cold e-mailing and then following up with a phone call. I think the calling part has very little do with the actual relationship building.

      My post was mostly about how sales is perceived by Gen-Y. I think the language and incentive structure of sales will probably need to change in order to attract members of Gen-Y. I could be wrong though, I don’t have data to back up my claim.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Jonathan Vaudreuil

        If there’s one thing that’s true in life (and in Sales), it’s that perception is reality. If many Gen Yers believe these things about Sales then it’s a career they’ll avoid. Wouldn’t blame anyone for it. It’s a tough profession.

        More responses:2. I will say that where I work has a team goal for each Sales team and the department as a whole. There’s more collaboration than you’d think. Sales Managers collaborate with their individual reps on a lot of things – prospecting, presentations, proposals, pipelines (uh, non-p word time), and planning (nuts!). Colleagues help one another out. Yeah, you’re not all working together on every demo or every proposal, but in general there is a bit of collaboration.

        3. Anything that sells itself requires order-takers, not Salespeople. Apple pays little because they need order-takers. My company pays far more because we need people able to drum up business.

        6. Gen Y is FAR more open about wanting to learn than previous generations. Learning often requires a mixture of taking a pay cut and being in way over your head. Those two things don’t always go over well, because I can tell you a lot of Gen Y people I interview want money AND to the experience without bringing much to the table other than an overrated college degree.

        7. Cold calling will disappear when it’s impossible to reach anyone on the phone and no one lets you enter their business without some kind of pass or permission. Until then it’s an extremely valuable way to drum up business fast. Even what you described is a variation on cold calling (it’s what I did when I was consulting).

        I’m not sure there is much of a reason to change how one pitches a Sales job, though – certain people are drawn to it. If you’re going to target people who WANT to sell then you need to offer them what they want. Collaboration, free lattes, and a Macbook probably won’t get me many top-notch Salespeople. The opportunity to grow fast, make deals, and make money gets me far better candidates every day. That’s what people who truly want to be in Sales are looking to do, in any generation.

        Oh, and sell something they believe in, but that’s actually Baby Boomer-era advice.

  • dmourey

    I disagree completely with your assessment of sales and I would add that your misconceptions of sales are universally held by all many generations not just Gen Y.

    Your comments are important though because these notions are what keep intelligent, capable people from looking into sales jobs — whether it’s a typical sales position (inside or outside sales), recruiting or business development. In addition, EVERY business owner, CEO and organization president is largely in sales. Are they all dishonest, money grubbing and uncollaborative? Surely some of them are but most of them are not.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I hope we get some people thinking about how cool and important sale is. As Jeff Gitomer says, “No one likes to be sold but everyone likes to buy so add value first.” 

    • DaleDavidson149

      Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Most of my assessment had to do with the perception of sales (along with some knowledge of how sales works at various companies). I think sales has a public perception problem where people, especially Gen-Y, don’t think too highly of the profession.

      I have my own side-project/business and doing sales for my own project is way more fun because I of course believe in what I’m selling.

      If businesses emphasized the relationship building and problem solving aspects of sales rather than the “deals and money” part I think they’d do a lot better at recruiting.



  • boo

    I am an X’er who is very close to being a Y’er pending on what age cut off you use.  I have been in sales for my entire career and went to college and got two graduate degree to get out of it.  Long story short, big recession came along and changing fields didn’t work out, so here I am still in sales.  The money is good, but there are some things that are certainly to be expected with any sales/marketing /business development positon, especially if you hope to not be fired:

    -You MUST pretend to like people that you have little or nothing in common with.

    -You MUST treat everyone in the groups and positions you are selling to as a potential customer, even if you’re not on the clock.

    -Related to the above statement, There is no clock in sales!

    -You MUST cold-call and follow up (BTW, cold calling is NEVER going away, even though younger folks don’t like using the phone TODAY, thier older employers will FORCE them to get used to answering it, by the time they hit late 30′s early 40′s they will be answering thier phones and cold calls, just like boomers because eventually you’d get fired for constantly ingnoring a ringing phone while at work).

    All of what you say is true about sales/marketing /business development positons and younger people are very correct making these assumtions.  Don’t let a boomer or older X’er try and fool you!  I will also add that the older folks who commented here are also not mentioning the worst issues that can arise with sales:

    -Jerk sales managers that flog thier employees to get the numbers they want or the numbers management wants them meet.

    -Some managers outright lying to thier underlings to get the results they want ALL the time because they have found it works well and has no consequences from above.

    -Unrealistic goals that can’t actually be met, but are put in place to keep turnover high and prevent people from gaining senority and possibly residuals comissions from accruing.

    -Being on call for last minute meetings because a potential sale is involved

    -Travel that may have no limit and driving in your car or flying or both, ALL the time.

    -No sales manager I ever had wanted me learning, on or off the job. They wanted me selling, period. A few times I made the mistake of mentioning school, continuing education, taking licensing exams, learning something from another department etc and got quite an earfull EVERYTIME. Eventually I learned to just stop telling sales managers about my “learning initiatives” and just surprise them at the end with the degree, license etc.

    -If you get too old, nobody wants to hire you (much worse than other professions).  Sales/marketing /business development positons have an age expiration date.  I’ve seen 85 year old civil engineers, Dentists, Accountants, Lawyers and MD’s working full-time and THRIVING.  How many 85 year old sales reps have you seen?

    Its all pretty annoying and never stops unless you change professions. Sales sucks, the pay can be good, but if you can earn the same doing something else with career longevity, DO IT!

    BTW, Jonathan Vaudreuil’s posts are dead wrong. Younger people today do sales jobs because its the highest paying job they can get. For example, imagine you went to school to be a veterinarian, but couldn’t get a position anywhere and didn’t have enough money to start your own practtice. How exciting would it be after all that schooling to be hired by another veterinary group to do prospecting, presentations, proposals, pipelining and planning to bring in clients to the practice, but NEVER getting to do any veterinary medicine in your day to day tasks; even though you make as much as the practicing vets that also work there whom are doing surgery etc?

    Real story, I didn’t make this up.

    Its one thing if such tasks are a PART of your day, its a whole other kind of hell to have to do it all day, everyday. This is how people end up in high paying sales positions. They have a technical background in what they are selling, but no one will pay them to do any job related to that technical background, other than SELLING!

    Maybe some Boomers love sales as a profession, but thats not what we are talking about here.

    • Dale

      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the honesty.

      You bring up an interesting point about unrealistic sales goals set by the sales managers. I think this actually causes a lot of dishonesty in the sales world (or at least is what it gives it the dishonest reputation).

      Do you think the sales culture can be reformed and improved?

  • Pingback: Why Would Anyone Go into Sales? |

  • JB

    Millennial generation here, 24 years old.  I prefer sales because you can make much more money, but you have to work hard for it.  Other jobs are boring and easy so you get paid less.  Rightfully so.  The more value you bring to a company the more you should be compensated.  If all you do is customer service or tech support, surprise surprise, your job can be done by a machine or be outsourced to India, so why would a company pay you competitively?  Now think about the last time an Indian or a recording convinced you to buy something?  Doesn’t happen…

    You are very correct that sales is for the competitive, but also those that are not afraid of rejection.  Lazy or timid people do not make good sales people.

  • Joao

    Nice article Dale. I’m gen y, with engineering degree and i’m seriously considering going to sales. I’ve got no sales exp., all i know about it comes from sales books, but i guess it will be a much better bet that to be an engineer like all other gen-y want to…today everyone can have a degree with such ease that we get paid 5€/h if we’re lucky.

    Scarcity will probably mean gen-y salespeople will get huge pay, even bigger than the boomers, in a couple of decades, while gen-y engineers will compete with indians for a bowl of rice. Besides desk job is booooring!Im introvert, gen y, no sales exp. no huge social skills, but i wanna get it all sorted out so bad. I guess sales first, entrepreneurship eventually, as a goal.

    “when every one rushes to one end of the boat, it’s a good idea to explore the other end”.

    Joao, Portugal

    • FarRightActivist

      Youre another one of those losers who reckons “Indians are taking over that industry”. 

      Heres an idea.  Stop generalizing, pull your head out of your ass and stop generalizing. Retard. 

  • Jason H. Kendall

    depends on the product- if you get a product that companies or people need- the item sells itself and you only have to worry about customer service and making the first connects-

  • J

    1976 Here… I have been in sales in one form or another since I was 7 years old. I started at this young age by selling plants I had grown door to door from my little red wagon. Throughout my years, I have owned businesses and am currently employed by Corp. America. I have almost 10 years experience selling financial services and products. Statistically, salespeople are perceived as the most dishonest group of professionals behind only Politicians and Lawyers. This has been my experience from both sides…

    1) Sales people are not inherently dishonest though the majority, NOT ALL, these days seem to be and this very disappointing trend is growing rapidly. Blame quarterly earnings, bean counters who have never sold, people scared of losing their jobs, and a down economy for this.

    2) “It’s Business” or “someone else is going to rip them off” are now the justifications used by many who call themselves sales people. Believe it or not, business was a word once associated with integrity, professionalism, expertise, customer service, a desire to provide value, and build long lasting relationships.

    3) Most sales jobs have become lying, cheating, over promising and under delivering, get a client and run jobs. Very few people are true sales people meaning: Those who can and will complete a sale while providing full disclosure of terms and conditions. Those who are willing to answer questions completely and honestly. And those who are thinking of the needs of the client first, not their sales goal, or the money they will make off the deal.

    4) Sales jobs will always be around but, seeing that sales people cost companies a great deal of money, look for many companies to seek out ways to allow consumers and merchants to self source products and services through the internet and skip the salesperson all together.

    Not all industries are the same… It is my belief that a salesperson who finds an industry they enjoy and a product or service they see value in, will obtain both success and happiness as a salesperson. I have made and lost a ton of money in my life and I have learned that for me, success is about much more than money. To each their own though! Happy Selling!!

    • Dave

      I would consider myself to be a mix of Gen X and Gen Y – and I completely agree with this comment. I would like to add

      1) As a customer, too often I feel like some sort of lab rat
      2) Over time there seems to have been a reversal of roles. It seems to me that businesses once existed for the benefit of the customer (and by extension, the community). I am conviced that these days, the customer exists for benefit of business – and that is extremely dehumanizing. When the customer suffers, we say “It’s just business, and without business the customer will suffer”, but when a business suffers we weep and mourn as one who loses his/her child to a natural disaster.

      The problem I have with CONTEMPORARY sales is that the relationship that they claim to be creating often resembles more of a stockholm syndrome

  • J1989

    Nope – Gen Y. I have a degree in Biochemistry. Tried to ‘do something different’ and tried a ‘Graduate Scheme’ with a local company which very quickly just turned into
    Sales. I’m quite good at my job but am desperate to go back to Science or at
    least a job which isn’t sales. Your right about the money in Sales but please don’t
    pretend that sales jobs have any much more progression than moving up to Sales
    manager. And I know someone will probably go on about how Sales people are
    highly valued for other roles – nah, that just isn’t the case. Perhaps for
    other SALES roles.

    I’m not trying to downgrade the profession or anyone in it,
    but please don’t Tar brush generation Y as being some ‘hipster’ idiots that just
    want to save the world or work for ‘just do something I love man’ just because one
    particular profession isn’t appealing to them.

  • boblobla

    Also keep in mind most sales positions offer crappy compensation. Although some sales jobs offer a potential for excellent compensation the business model of today for most sales positions comes with a so so salary and then “bonus potential” which is typically reserved for some unattainable sales number the territory barely supports. Of course your “bonus” is factored into the territory budget making the territory look more profitable than it is when you ultimately fail to attain the volume needed for said bonus. I have moved away from a sales career because most companies have moved away from paying their sales force commissions and moved to the cost cutting model above. Unless companies want to start paying an honest commission again, they can find some other sucker to deal with customer service, cold calling, marketing, problem solving and all of the other duties and responsibilities that come with a sales job. It’s not that Gen-Y hates doing sales, it’s that sales on a whole doesn’t pay enough anymore. Gen-Y is smart enough to take a menial office job that compensates at about the same level without the stress, duties and long hours that come with a sales job. Unless the compensation model for sales changes back to the traditional commission structure of old, people with the skills and experience to be successful in sales will transfer those talents to another position. In short, companies will literally get what they pay for when it comes to their sales force.

  • Ally

    Hi –

    The reality is every company uses sales. They either have a whole sales division or everyone plays a part in contributing to the sales end. Bottom line: businesses do not survive with-out customers/clients.

    So why does Gen-Y have a bad taste in their mouth when this skill set is so valuable? I’m a generation-Y 1990′s baby and I see the lack of enthusiasm my peers and I have about the job duties that come with this career path. We don’t want to cold call, we don’t want to just a number and we don’t want to stand behind a product/service we don’t believe in. It sometimes feels there is very little light at the end of the tunnel.

    Gen-Y’s have a difficult time looking past our current day situation, or see the next step after the sales job. We hate it because we live in a fast past world where we learned very quick to keep up. Where we look for upward mobility, a fancy title and a big pay check. We don’t mind working hard so most job descriptions entice us to sales but at the same time, the reality of cold calling and being just a number isn’t for us. The job market does not adhere to the rules of past passed promotions and high pay checks right out of college. Sales, like any job, you need to start at the bottom just as baby-boomers did and generations to come.

    If you want to get out of sales try looking into the industry you like to see yourself in. Use your skill set many Gen-y’s have of being personable and go-getters to get into a company whose’ industry you find attractive. Then make connections in the company and start gaining skills on the side to move horizontally in another division in the company. Negotiate your way though. Everything is a step-by-step process. if you want to get into sales, do the same with your current skills.

    Thanks Dale for sharing, I’m going to read SPIN Selling.

  • Morgan O’Brien-Bledsoe

    I think one more reason we don’t like sells jobs is because we believe people should be paid for their work not just their seccess. My work has value even when the customer doesn’t buy anything. Why would i want to work for someone who doesn’t understand that my time is worth money just like theirs.

  • Alex McMann

    I am glad that GenY-rs don’t like sales.. less competition for me. REALITY CHECK! GenYrs are the best consumers on the planet and I sell you crap everyday and make a killing off of it! So, stop your liberal hippie rant about saving the planet and working in a group… money runs America and nobody cares if you are trying to save the planet in “a team.” …move out of your mom’s basement while you are at it! LMAO hippie hipster weak underling.

    • Dale

      Phew! Glad some people love being in the crap-selling business. How else would I furnish my mom’s basement? You sir, are an American hero.

    • Sifter

      Which is exactly why most top sales professionals I know are cold, hard, egotistical, twice divorced money loving manipulating pricks. They cum when they close the deal, people are secondary.

  • Nicola

    Well I’m not sure what Americans get in sales but I just work for a small wine company in Australia doing sales over the phone and make an average of $70 an hour. Over 100k annually without having any degree isn’t bad! You can make EXCELLENT money in the sales industry if you have the personality for it. I’m full time so get the added benefits of one month holiday pay and sick pay. Plus superannuation of course. More job positions should pay commission. It’s fair and benefits both you and the company as you get incentive to work harder being rewarded with what you earn, and the company makes higher profits too. And yes, I’m a young Generation Y and LOVE working in sales. If you want to cry about how unfair this world is in a try-hard shitty cafe with your organic cruelty free coffee then go ahead, maybe it’s because your pants are too tight or you get a rash wearing those ‘vintage’ clothes you picked up from your local Op shop. Or if your not shy and lazy and willing to put yourself out there, you can go far in life working in sales, buy those super expensive shoes, have your 5 over priced cocktails in that pretentious bar and enjoy luxurious overseas holidays every year and really live it up!

    • Dale

      You’ve sold me on the sales job! Where I can get one? Now, I have to ask, why haven’t you moved up to a bigger company where you can get bigger commission checks? Perhaps selling big enterprise IT systems or such. Then you could have cruelty-free and love filled coffee every morning.

  • Darth Telepius

    Here’s the thing. Sales is a miserable millennial job for a multitude of reasons. For one, it is extremely non collaborative. The concept of a sales team is an oxymoron. Everybody is out for each other’s business.
    Secondly, it’s a dying profession. The internet has one comma when businesses or people want to purchase something, they can do research and know what they want to buy. People don’t like to be interrupted. Nobody likes to be balls deep in work, and get a telephone call from a telemarketer or have some sales rep show up at their place of business. I have worked in sales before, and handled sales for inbound leads. That is much more efficient even my job wasn’t really necessary. Sales is not great for people with morals. You are required to be ambiguous and fit your “solutions” to match your sales revenue.
    As already stated, sales won’t be around forever. Companies are starting to use vendor request websites where companies fill out a form to request to do business with them. Technology has rendered sales obsolete. As a buyer, I sift through these submissions for my company from time to time and purposely avoid submissions made by people with job titles like account executive or consultant. You’re not fooling anyone.
    Lastly, people don’t like salespeople. If you get paid on commission, why would I believe you’re looking out for me? No thanks. Now as a buyer, I research the things I need to, and I try to buy a product or service without any interaction with a sales person. Oh, and your clever job titles don’t fool anyone. When somebody tells me that they are a sales person, I seriously question their personality, character, and psychiatric state.

    • Todd Preston

      The problem is…EVERYONE is selling. Whether you realize it or NOT. It doesn’t matter whether you are a secretary or a Egg Flipper. IF you don’t have a customer, you are selling your services to YOUR BOSS. If he’s not a happy customer, then you have failed at selling. Selling is simply persuading someone to see the benefits of your product and if it fits their needs. HATE all you want…but you are actually trying to “sell us” on this idea that sales will die. This is wrong. Anytime there is competition, there will be selling.

  • Nerisa Dias

    I guess that’s because most of us just don’t fancy the idea of working extra hard for less pay or a commission based jobs which obviously are exploitative in nature. Moreover a salesperson’s person main job is to ensure that the employer and the back office staff gets richer for the work done by the salesperson by giving up all the revenue earned and accepting just remunerating a small percentage of the same.

Sign up for the Dale Thoughts Mailing list

The Ancient Wisdom Project

I'm now spending most of my time blogging for my new site, The Ancient Wisdom Project.

The Ancient Wisdom Project is a series of experiments in which I dedicate 30-day periods to practicing, studying, and reflecting on a single ancient philosophy or religion with the hopes of achieving personal growth.

Read more about the project here.

Travel as Mastery

TrekDek | Travel as Mastery Badge

Products I use


© 2016 Dale Thoughts. Powered by WordPress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium WordPress Themes