Study by the Sales Executive Share Group and Dechert-Hampe Consulting Finds CPG Companies Must Focus on Values to Attract and Retain Millennials

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Sales Executive Share Group (SESG) report cites loyalty, social responsibility and Financial Stability as top priorities in CPG sales career decisions

A study of Millennials’ attitudes toward careers in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sales reveals that while “Generation Y” – the so-called “Echo Boomers” or “Millennials” -- are often said to have little interest in company loyalty, the exact opposite is true. The study suggests that while Millennials generally do not wish to be bound to a job, they do value mutual commitment between companies and associates and place high value on working for companies they can be proud of.

The study is presented in a white paper, Top Talent: A Top Priority. Insights into Recruiting and Retaining Millennials for Consumer Packaged Goods Sales. Said to be the first such research to focus specifically on CPG sales professionals, it was conducted by the Sales Executive Share Group (SESG), an organization of the top sales executives at 14 major CPG companies, in conjunction with Dechert-Hampe Consulting. SESG members have expressed concern over Millennials’ perceptions about careers in CPG Sales and about the potential for turnover among Millennials on their sales forces.

The study examined Millennials’ attitudes that impact both recruitment and retention, and compared those attitudes to those of their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors.

Daunting Challenges
With the Baby Boomer generation rapidly approaching retirement, CPG companies will be left with many more positions than their “Generation X” successors can fill – especially in Sales. And the Boomers will take more than their pensions. They’ll take their expertise, knowledge, customer relationships and the business instincts that their companies have depended on for decades.

To fill those positions, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies will have to turn to the Boomers’ children, alternately referred to as “Echo Boomers”, “Generation Y” and, most colloquially, “Millennials”. These twenty-somethings are projected to comprise 50 percent of the workforce by 2018.

The real challenge is not just quantity, however. It’s quality. The CPG sales function has become more strategic and consultative. It increasingly requires people with analytic skills and imagination, as well as the communication skills and entrepreneurial spirit that characterize great sales people in today’s environment. This pits CPG sales organizations in head-to-head competition with other industries and even with other functions within their own companies for the best and the brightest talent.

Like every generation, Millennials have different expectations than their Boomer and “Generation X” predecessors and for the best and the brightest among them – the ones CPG companies really need – paying dues carrying a bag isn’t among them. That leads CPG Sales executives to consider three critical questions:

> How do we get the top talent among Millennials into CPG Sales?
> How do we keep them at our companies?
> How do we need to change to make those things happen?

“Our ability to recruit and retain highly qualified young people [Millenials] has evolved” says Drew Wintemberg, Executive Vice President of Time Warner Retail. It took time to learn what makes the younger generation tick, and therefore how to recruit them, manage them and keep them with our company. We are sharing some of our learning with the industry at large so others can better understand how to work with this key group and help ensure that CPG sales remains a vital career for the next generation.”

Substantive Solutions
“We are still learning what is important to Millennials” says Tony Sarsam, President Nestle DSD Division. “We correctly assumed that compensation was important, but we thought things like technology and lifestyle would be very important. While they are, we found that the younger generation values loyalty and growth opportunities much higher than we previously anticipated.”

The white paper offers a wide range of approaches CPG companies can use to attract and retain top talent for sales positions. These include approaches to recruitment that begin on campus, where perceptions about careers are reinforced, and extend to the vast social media networks that are part of Millennials’ everyday lives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average mid-twenties employee leaves their job after only 16 months. The white paper also points out numerous ways CPG companies can increase retention among Sales Associates. These revolve around providing the right mix of freedom, opportunity and structure, and leveraging technology to promote collaboration.

Lee Nichols, President of Dechert-Hampe Consulting, believes the study is especially important in light of the role of today’s sales manager. “Today, a career in CPG Sales is much different than in the past. Sales people must not only build strong relationships with their customers, but they need to be complete business managers with strong analytical, strategic, tactical and planning skills. To be successful with an increasingly sophisticated customer base, companies need to attract the best and the brightest among the Millennial generation”.

Download the white paper.

About the SESG
The Sales Executive Share Group (SESG) is a group of non-competitive, senior CPG Sales executives sharing information, ideas and experiences to improve productivity and promote positive change in their respective sales forces. SESG members meet regularly to share perspectives, insights and ideas and to develop creative solutions for issues facing CPG Sales organizations.

Member companies at the time of the study were:

  • The Campbell Soup Company
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises
  • Dechert-Hampe Consulting
  • Del Monte Foods
  • Disney Consumer Products
  • The Energizer Company
  • E. & J. Gallo Winery    
  • Kraft Foods
  • Nestle DSD Division
  • Pharmavite
  • S. C. Johnson
  • J.M. Smucker Company
  • Time Warner Retail
  • The Wrigley Company

About Dechert-Hampe
Dechert-Hampe Consulting (DHC) is a Sales and Marketing consulting firm focusing on the Consumer Products and Services industry. DHC has facilitated the Sales Executive Share Group since its inception in 2007.

For further information regarding this study, please contact:
Susanne Conrad
Dechert-Hampe Consulting
847-559-0490
sconrad(at)dechert-hampe(dot)com

© 2011 Dechert-Hampe Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved

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Susanne Conrad

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