I was born in 1982 which technically makes me part of the Millennial generation. And when it comes to sales motivation there might not be a more polarizing subject than how to effectively coach Millennials. I mean how do you get through to an entire group of people who are lazy, self-centered, and entitled? Although, I do not believe these characteristics to be at all representative of my generation, they are words that get thrown around by some senior executives and a few grumpy boomers on a routine basis. It is hard to not get into arguments when talking about different age groups and all generations seem to speak with a false sense of bravado when talking about other generations short comings. However the fact is that by the year 2025 Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. What does this mean for sales VP’s and front-line sales managers? It means that Millennials are going to make up the majority of your sales teams and you will need to learn how to coach them.
I had a mini epiphany at the grocery store a while back. My grocery list was very short; I had a bit of a sweet tooth, was thirsty, and needed to get some fruit for tomorrow’s breakfast. This should have been a quick trip right? In theory yes, but here is what happened. To satisfy my sweet tooth I went to the cookie isle to get some Oreo’s which seems easy enough, but have you seen how many different types of Oreo’s there are on the shelves these days? Honestly, it might be easier to find the right health plan for a family of 4 than it is to find a package of regular Oreo’s. Finally I prevailed by finding some original single stuffed Oreo’s, but then proceeded to try and find a fruit punch Gatorade and I ran into the same problem that I did with the cookies. I found myself longing for the days when Lemon-Lime, Orange, and Fruit Punch were the only options. Instead, today you have seemingly a hundred different variations of a bunch of flavors I am not sure anyone actually ever drinks.
On a positive note I did find my bananas and oranges very easily. So what was my epiphany? Well, I hear the word entitled thrown around a lot with Millennials, but after my experience at the grocery store it became clear to see why Millennials might feel like they can get whatever they want – because for the most part they can. They can get their movies On-Demand, they have 1000’s of television channels to choose from, and there are multiple options within single brands such as Oreo’s, Wheat Thins, and Doritos. In so many instances they have different routes and options to get what they desire and for the most part it has always been this way for them, so why would the professional world be any different? The easy answer is because “it just is”, and while true, it is not going to be a message that resonates with Millennials, at least early on in their careers.
So what is it that Millennials want out of their careers and from their employers? This article from Barry Salzberg, Global CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, does a good job of outlining just that. They expect businesses to care, to be innovative, they want to be leaders, they want to make a difference, and they are prepared to go their own way if businesses do not provide them with their above desires. In short, to me, it sounds like Millennials want their employers to care about them as people and to care about the communities they represent. This does not seem too unreasonable and from the caring about them as people perspective, this is going to put a premium on great coaching. This is not surprising given the fact that from our latest study on sales motivation, the two things that motivate sales reps to sell more are coaching and helping them progress towards their career objectives, which does not sound too far off from what Millennials are expecting from their employers.
The way I see it, at the end of the day Millennials are not that unlike the other generations. They have big dreams, hopes, and desires. They have a voice, they want to be heard, and they want to know that what they are saying matters. Perhaps the biggest difference is that they expect great coaching from their managers and when they do not receive it they are not afraid to go seek it elsewhere. Millennials are people, and people are messy, but since when is that different from any generation in the past? In short, the real difference is that Millennials have options and they are not afraid to choose what is best for them so you will have to coach them to get the sales results you and they desire!
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