The Pew Research Center defines millennials as the generation born after 1980 that came to early adulthood in the early 2000s.
Reporters have a lot to say about millennials, who are stereotyped as entitled individualists who are slow to leave the nest but, like it or not, millennials are entering the workforce in large numbers.
It is important that managers spend some time getting to know this unique generation if they want to work well with them, especially in a sales environment and managing salespeople.
What Makes a Millennial?
millennial was the first to grow up with computers in his/her home, making her comfortably fluent with computers in all forms.
The fact that technology has been evolving for her entire life makes it easy for her to adapt to new tools and incorporate them into her routine.
Social networking is second nature for her, which can be a big asset in business and especially sales.
The millennial worker uses technology resourcefully and expects quick feedback, data collection and results.
The millennial worker entered the job market right as the recession hit, leaving her with the highest student loan debt of any previous generation and few career options with which to pay it.
This struggle has made the millennial worker somewhat risk averse and slow to trust or commit to big life choices. Convincing a millennial, even one with Drive, to enter the high-risk/high-reward field of sales can be tricky.
Desire for Balance
A millennial tends to value work/life balance more than previous generations.
A woman born in this generation is more likely to work full time than a woman in any previous generation, which means that home-running duties and childcare are left for both spouses to deal with together at the end of the work day and work week.
A millennial also tends to have less faith in the economic promise of retirement and so is less likely to put off leisure for when she is older. Healthy living is more important for a millennial than it has been to previous generations, so having time to exercise and make health a priority will factor into her career choices.
A millennial wants to feel like she is involved in something meaningful that benefits more than her own self-interest. Growing up in the age of technology and information, she demands transparency from those with whom she does business.
The millennial’s desire to feel a sense of purpose and altruism in her life means that she is not as easily motivated by money alone, especially if the source of that money puts her other values in conflict.
Parents usually have strong relationships with their millennial kids which transform into friendships as their children reach adulthood.
Part of the reason millennials tend to move home after college more than previous generations is because (apart from student loan debt and a slow economy) they get along with their parents relatively well.
How to Get the Most From Your Millennial Salespeople
1. Re-frame your team’s mission.
While commissions will always draw people to sales, you can earn a millennial’s loyalty and enthusiasm beyond payday by showing her how your product really helps people.
Any time you get the opportunity to highlight how your sales team’s work makes a difference for clients, the community, or even the other people in the company, you will be appealing to the millennial’s desire for purpose.
2. Encourage camaraderie.
Feeling like part of a team is a great motivator for a millennial and gives more meaning to her daily work.
Friendly competition, group goal setting and mentorship are all great ways to build a sense of team among your salespeople.
3. Manage expectations.
A millennial worker is accustomed to fast-paced action. Any time she wants to check a fact or learn a new skill, she has everything she needs immediately at her fingertips.
Learning to be a good salesperson takes time and practice, which can be frustrating for a millennial.
When you take on a new sales employee, make sure to give her a realistic idea of how much time and work it will take for her to see results, and give her benchmarks along the way to measure her progress.
4. Offer support and feedback.
Involved parents have trained millennials to crave feedback.
All sales teams need good training programs, but millennials are even more motivated by structure and communication with superiors than previous generations, so try your best to keep your employees in the loop.
A millennial’s behavior toward her superiors can tend to be informal because she is used to speaking openly with parents and teachers, but it is not a sign of disrespect.
There is no need for you to sugarcoat your feedback like a doting mother, but try to give criticism that is constructive as you would with any employee.
5. Focus on outcomes.
Millennials typically abhor the nine-to-five workday requirement, even though they average more than 40 hours of work per week.
If you focus on outcomes rather than time cards, you will make your millennial worker feel like she has the flexibility to lead a more balanced life.
Make your expectations clear from the beginning and assess salespeople based on what you expect them to achieve rather than face time you want them to give.
6. Consider mitigating risk.
If it is a possibility for your company, it might be a good idea to structure compensation for beginning salespeople with a slightly higher base salary and lower commission percentage.
Millennial salespeople will be more likely to try sales and move out of their parent’s house if the base salary offered is livable. Then, as they become more confident in their sales capabilities, you can give them the option to take a lower base salary with a higher commission percentage.
For all their quirks, millennials are a tech-savvy and passionate generation. Hiring millennials can benefit your sales team in big ways, especially if your target demographic includes their peers.
Old school sales tactics tend to drive millennial buyers away, but a millennial salesperson understands how her generation thinks and can appeal to them more easily.
That said, it would be a mistake to simply hire the first young person you find and expect her to help your sales team reach millennial clients. Hiring sales candidates with Drive is just as important with millennials as it is with any group.
Assess salespeople with a reputable pre-employment sales test during the hiring process to determine if they have the Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism necessary to keep up in the demanding world of sales. When you find a millennial candidate with Drive, you will have the tools you need to nurture her talent into a successful career in sales.