Organizations used to be able to cook up a successful sales team with a few basic ingredients: a quality product, a compelling compensation plan, a simple training program and effective sales tracking. Not so anymore. Millennials have changed the recipe.
Millennials are the youngest generation in today’s workforce. They also differ vastly from those in the generations before them — and that’s especially true when it comes to sales. Millennial salespeople are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They came of age immersed in technology and instant communication. Their expectations, for work and personal life, are sky-high.
It should come as no surprise then that this unique generation has tremendous potential for great results in sales — but millennials require a new style of management to foster that success.
Here are seven essential tips for effectively managing millennial salespeople:
1. Figure out what really drives them. Millennials are idealists, often focusing more on social impact or personal fulfillment than how much money they make. They also tend to live at home with their parents longer than those of previous generations and put off marriage and child-rearing. As a result, some millennials are less driven by the need for financial stability than the quest for work-life balance or community contribution. Figure out what really drives your millennial staffers so that you can motivate them effectively.
2. Help them see the clients’ perspective. Because millennial salespeople sometimes sell to older clients, they’ll need to understand and connect with them. Teach your millennial sales team that 55-year-old prospects won’t have the same outlooks or aspirations as 27-year-olds. The baby boomer client might be highly motivated by financial security, say, while a millennial one could be driven by convenience and flexibility. If millennial salespeople fail to understand the perspectives of those from other generations, they will struggle to maintain relationships with some clients and close sales with many prospects.
3. Train, train, train — and then train some more. Millennials might be overeducated for their entry-level jobs, but you should still provide them with extensive training. Baby boomer parents have instilled millennials with an appreciation for continued education. By offering comprehensive training to new hires, you’ll draw top young talent to your organization. Plus, millennials are typically enthusiastic learners who will implement the strategies and techniques they are taught. The more training you provide, the more effective they will be.
4. Focus on what they do — not when. The idea of a 9-to-5 workday is not just foreign to most millennials; it’s abhorrent. If left to their own devices, these young salespeople might head off to the gym at noon, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hardworking. They’ll likely to stay late at work to finish what they have to do.
Many organizations struggle to manage their millennial salespeople by requiring that they work certain hours. This is unnecessary and harmful to productivity. Millennials are famous for demanding work-life balance. If they sense that their employer lacks an appreciation for work-life equilibrium, their morale may plummet and they might consider other job options.
So instead of setting a rigid work schedule, give your millennial sales team specific daily or weekly sales-activity goals: a certain number of calls, meetings to arrange or events to attend. Then let them work according to the schedule that enables them to be the most productive.
5. Give them lots of feedback. There’s a reason why millennials are called Trophy Kids! This generation wants glowing recognition — and lots of it. Remember that this generation grew up receiving awards and trophies for nearly every endeavor, whether it’s taking last place at a Little League tournament or fifth place at a science fair. Capitalize upon this by giving lots of feedback. Knowing that their manager thinks they’re doing a great job can be a terrific motivator. Millennials aim high when it comes to work achievement and are exceptionally open to constructive criticism if it will translate to more success, faster.
6. Set their expectations for success. Millennials grew up with instant gratification — fast food, instant messaging and 24-hour news cycle. As a result, this generation looks for fast results and is likely to get bored quickly. In the workplace this translates into what’s known as job-hopping: Millennials might stay at each job for only a few months to a year, leaving for greener pastures if their expectations aren’t met in a timely manner. Instead of viewing this negatively, consider that this mind-set can be an asset to your business. Millennial salespeople start every new job with enthusiasm and high hopes. If you can help shape their expectations for the job, you can more consistently retain millennial talent. Set realistic expectations early on for millennial salespeople, and you will lessen the likelihood that they’ll leave in the near future.
7. Ask for their help. One of the best qualities of members of the millennial generation is that they are collaborative, team-oriented workers. This means they’re likely to want to help others in the workplace. Once they have shown superior skills in particular areas, invite them to train others. Millennials will likely be strong with technologies such as your customer relationship management system. Let them help veteran salespeople master a technology if they struggle with it.