Millennials. Entitled. Spoiled. Non-competitive. Lack of loyalty. Unstructured. Job-hoppers.
Those descriptive words that society tosses around about millennials just flickered through your head, admit it.
There’s certainly no argument that millennials – 80 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000 – may present a management challenge, especially in a sales setting where structure and process are critical tools to keeping revenue on track and goals in sight. But harness the positive traits that millennials possess and you’ve got star power on your hands.
Millennials aren’t afraid to shake the status quo. They come up with creative and interesting solutions to issues. They love to learn. They want a solid work/life balance. They are adventurous and free-spirited. They don’t burn for material rewards. They want experiences.
How do you harness the bright energy that comes with a millennial sales team? Here are four suggestions for beleaguered managers of the sales “unicorn”, the millennial.1) “Hey, Boomers. What’s up with you people and this 9 to 5 thing?”
Work/life balance is important to the millennials in your group. Even if it feels as though you’re turning your entire work philosophy on its ear, looking at flex time makes all the difference to millennials. Change the 9-to-5 routine into, “Millennial, here are the revenue objectives for this week. Here are the actions – and the number of actions – you need to take to get to that objective. How you do that is up to you. I’ll be checking in daily to see how I can help, but how you get there is your responsibility. By the end of the week, let’s hit that target.” No talk of schedule. No talk of 9 to 5. Millennial needs to make the work happen her way, on her time. Be clear about expectations, empower your millennials to organize themselves, but keep them accountable with the reporting structures you put in place to guide them and keep you informed.
2) “My boss said I’m great. In front of everyone. And he gave me passes to go whitewater rafting!”
The same emotion that gives millennials the feeling of entitlement kicks in when praise, genuine praise, for a job well done is delivered. They love being recognized for their work. They’re products of parents who gave out trophies randomly for just showing up. Millennials thrive on that recognition. Robin Sharma, the leadership guru, wrote in his book Leadership Wisdom From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, “Reward routinely. Recognize relentlessly.” He was definitely talking about millennials. Be genuine in your praise. Be specific. Be clear on the positive outcome. Commend the specific behaviors that created the outcome. And, then, stand back. You’ll see it happen all over again.
And, about the whitewater place … millennials love experiential rewards. They don’t want a television, a boat, a dinner for two somewhere in the neighborhood. They want an experience – whitewater rafting, zip-lining, rock climbing. Be creative with your incentives and your millennials will follow you anywhere.
3) “Teach me.”
Millennials were raised by parents who believe education is important, so it’s important to them. Offer continuous learning opportunities, regular sales training sessions, one-on-one coaching, reading materials, online learning (that’s really effective for this technology-driven group). If you train continuously, your efforts will be rewarded. Millennials are excellent learners and view training as the company investing in their future. Teach them about using new technologies, such as social selling, effective linking, email tracking. Introduce them to new methods for managing their activities. Take some sales calls with them so you can coach them more effectively later. The investment of time and training will pay off in results and retention of the stars.4) “We have a new app that helps us track progress. And the company issued laptops and new software. They’re giving us the tools we need to do the job. I love it here.”
This is an age group that thrives on new technology. They grew up clicking mouses and swiping screens. Give them the technological tools they need and you are arming them for greater success. They will use the tracking system. They will use software for client retention. They will welcome the ability to do client presentations with their laptops. Their use of technology has two major benefits. First, it satisfies the millennial’s need to be up-to-the-minute with new technology and the need to appear polished in front of the client. Second, it demonstrates to clients that your company is investing in technology to make the client experience better than it ever has been. Bottom line: Having the right tools to do the job is important to millennials. It makes them feel professional.
Finally, listen to them. Listen hard. You will learn what triggers their loyalty, their creativity, their work ethic just by dialing up your EQ.
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Jonathan is a SaaS strategist and SalesLoft content specialist. He has extensive experience in sales development, account management, and B2B strategy.
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