What are we going to do with those Millennials emerging within the workplace? Especially those taking on sales roles such as sales development reps, account executives, account managers and even sales leadership? According to Deloitte, 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, want to work for organizations that foster innovative thinking, develop their skills, and make a positive contribution to society.
We have to take a look internally on how we engage, enable and lead Millennials within the sales force. And then you factor in, of course, Millennials are now being more decision makers and influencers, the landscape is continually changing.
Millennials and even Generation Z have certain expectations and to effectively engage them will require a different set of core competencies. Here’s a more in-depth look into we know about them, the difference in generations and how we can better enable them to succeed.
What do we know about Millennials?
This new force is now taking on many sales roles from inside, field and sales management positions. With this change comes a new way of engaging and managing Millennials. This shifting workforce presents a new attitude towards technology and the workplace. So, how do you manage and train them?
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They are a different persona than the traditional sales managers have hired. They like to learn, they like to learn in a different way, the online components do not scare them so how we address Millennial buyers is very similar to how we’re addressing them internally now.
The Generational Gap Between Old-School And Digital Natives
First, let’s define what we mean by “Old School” also known as “digital immigrants.” They didn’t have social media as part of their growth and development years, but were likely introduced to it in their 20s and 30s.
Interestingly, you may be surprised to hear that those between the ages of 35 and 45 outperformed sales pros under 35 years of age by 5% per unit on the SSI scores according to LinkedIn data. The “Old School” scored on average 5 more points, and those over 45 scored 6 points higher than those under 35.
Why that might be?
The LinkedIn SSI score is made up of four components:
- The brand around your profile.
- Finding your ideal customer.
- Engaging that customer through conversation.
- Sharing insight.
Sales professionals over the age of 45 have years of experience with traditional networking and can leverage their business acumen to build on their sphere of influence. Those foundational relationship building skills then translate accordingly while using LinkedIn, which is a roadmap to relationships in both their personal and customers’ sphere of influence.
On the other side, Millennials are more digital-natives who are immersed in technology and social media. Understanding how to use emerging platforms and the internet has become second nature to them. Their lack of work experience, business acumen and relationships are compensated for their strong understanding of how to leverage technology.
As Millennials continue to build their experience, their networks and business acumen, how do sales leaders engage their Millennial sales force to maximize their effectiveness?
Engaging The Millennial Sales Force
Managing Millennial Sales Reps
They represent the most radical change to society’s ideologies since the Baby Boomer generation. As the Millennial force shifts in momentum, leaders will need to be prepared for the changing dynamics to come.
Christian Obando, Director of Inside Sales EMEA at Juniper Networks states “I believe it comes very much down to actually speaking their language, right, and also leveraging a set of different communication trend as communication tools when we engage with the millennials.”
For leaders looking to maximize the effectiveness of Millennial sales reps, they should expect challenges, employ the right management methods and have tenured reps coach Millennials on core competencies.
Within Forrester Research’s report May The Force Of The Millennials Be With You!, Mary Shea identifies three considerations:
1. Expect these challenges
“Millennials have greater expectations around how quickly they will be promoted.” To address this challenge, clear expectations must be set and transparency is key, as is communication regarding progress against timelines.
2. Employ The Right Management Method
Most managements indicated they over communicate, and others described using very direct and blunt communication styles to get points across. To further enable Millennials, leaders must provide sales reps with access to to data and dashboards to allow them to self-manage and help the manager shape data-driven coaching conversations.
Here are some additional pieces of advice:
- Set clear expectations
- Be available any time for any type of conversation
- Show the rep a clear path to success
3. Have Tenured Reps Coach Millennials On Communication and Relationship Building Skills
Forrester’s research also uncovered that both reps and managers identify engaging in actual interpersonal interactions – either phone-based or in-person – as challenging for Millennial sales reps. Little nuances that may be second nature for the older generation such as keeping eye contact during customer interactions can be quite difficult for Millennials, as well as basic relationship building skills.
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Can Millennials Be Good In Sales?
Being a digital native has many benefits, one of them is understanding social platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook which have become table stakes in sales. Millennials aren’t as bad as perception paints them to be but with better training and development, they can improve their relationship-building skills in conjunction with their expertise on technology.
They present an opportunity for organizations, their openness to innovations can be a wonderful testing ground for transformation in an organization. Because they’re adept at social media and more apt to desire to learn social selling, organizations can train these young sales professionals and get them up to speed. The relationship between more senior sales professionals and Millennials can be quite positive as they reciprocate and share best practices.