Not all generational sales teams are created equal. Millennial sales reps-part of the generation that’s rapidly overtaking all others in terms of numbers in the workforce-come with unique challenges in terms of managing and motivating.
It’s in every business’s best interests to re-evaluate and refine their sales coaching techniques in order to engage this generation of salespeople and maximize their efforts in the marketplace.Here are several tips for engaging and managing your millennial sales team for the best results:
#1. Focus on ongoing training. For millennials, sales training shouldn’t be a “one-time” event. The good news is, this generation is consistently eager and open to training, and will swiftly implement what’s learned into real-world strategies and techniques.
On the other hand, millennials are notorious for having shorter attention spans than past generations (recognizing, of course, that we’re all experiencing this behavioral trend in one form or another). Consequently, ongoing training is critical for long-term success. Brief sales videos and short training sessions offered, for example, through mobile-based sales instructions provided in 5- to 10-minute intervals, will appeal to these sales reps.
#2. Train them to understand a different generation of clients. As part of training, instruct the millennial sales team to better comprehend the outlooks and needs of older, baby boomer clients. “If millennial salespeople fail to understand the perspective of those from other generations, they will struggle to maintain relationships with some clients and close sales with many prospects,” notes sales strategist Marc Wayshak.
#3. Offer feedback (and plenty of it). Millennials have grown up with considerable immediate input on their performance from parents, teachers, Little League coaches and others. They’ll welcome the same kind of ongoing feedback from sales managers. They want to know how they’re faring in their job, both the good and the bad, and will react negatively if such feedback isn’t forthcoming.
In the same respect, structure is important, as long as it’s flexible enough to accommodate individual styles. As noted at SmartCEO, “You need to give millennial reps something to work with where they can apply their own personality, style and approach to that structure without being like, ‘OK, here’s your quota. Figure it out. Good luck.’"
#4. Support their digital sales efforts. Millennial sales reps are well positioned to shine when it comes to social selling. Having grown up in the realm of social media, these young men and women are comfortable with and skilled in leveraging a variety of platforms to help meet your company’s sales goals. They understand on nearly a visceral level-how to make the most of LinkedIn, Twitter, and other new, emerging networks, and in listening to others, engaging in sales-driven online conversations and establishing relationships via social media with potential prospects.
With this in mind, encourage your sales team to continuously adopt new technologies and integrate the latest, most sophisticated digital sales tools into their repertoire. Millennials won’t push back or resist this area of innovation-and you’ll likely benefit from the introduction of more efficient, streamlined processes.
#5. Encourage collaboration. This generation of sales reps is accustomed to working in a team environment, so encouraging collaboration, as opposed to pitting one sales rep against the others in competition-is the best approach. Look for innovative ways for them to work together, as in group brainstorming sessions, and mentoring and/or cross-training opportunities. Rewarding team achievements (in addition to individual performance) will keep the team spirit alive and growing.
#6. Offer experiential incentives to promote greater activity. Money remains an important incentive for millennials, just as it has for prior generations. However, this generation values experience as well. Look for ways to incorporate experiential incentives into your sales program, because, as marketing expert, Jeremy Boudinet writes, such incentives
“are exciting, different, take users out of their comfort zone, given them a broader view of the outside world and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”
Coaching millennial sales reps require altering the approach of management to better accommodate their specific needs and ambitions. However, the payoff in terms of enthusiasm and results, is worth the effort.
Author bio: Brian O’Neill and Sales Empowerment Group have helped the most innovative, fastest-growing businesses and Fortune 500 companies with sales consulting, sales recruiting, sales training, inside sales and a unique program called “The Interim VP of Sales Program.” O’Neill is also the author of three books available on Amazon.