Millennials present challenges, opportunities in sales process

A sales person today must be confident, resilient and open to change.  Our economy is evolving, and if today’s salesperson doesn’t keep up, they are going to be outpaced by the emerging Millennials!

Millennials are the most-connected generation ever. These individuals came of age while computers became part of our everyday life.  If not at home, they were introduced to computers in preschool, and literally grew up behind a mouse and keyboard.  They developed their social skills being raised on the computer.  Everyone was interested in the “new-fangled” computer, and early child development began on simple-concept electronics.   Millennials grew up in an advanced technological environment where nothing remains the same, with constant change and upgrades frequently and expected.

This generation is comprised of fast-thinking, high expecting multi-taskers that have little intention to stay in any job that’s holding them back from their ideals.

Today’s Millennials look for versatility and flexibility in the workplace, while striving for a strong work–life balance.  Employers are concerned that their career expectations are too high and they will switch jobs frequently.  You’ve heard the term “trophy kids”?  These are your Gen Y employees.  They participated in youth sports, where mere involvement was frequently enough for a reward.   

Those managing these dynamic individuals, who embrace the “reward-for-effort model,” will satisfy their basic need of reward for participating, with engaged enthusiasm. When harnessing the positive traits of today’s new crop of sales people, team leaders will be better able to direct their Millennials through the difficulties they face in today’s sales environment.

They work in a much faster-paced world, fueled by technology and overwhelming information.  The 9-to-5 office job is currently morphing.  Everyone connects to a hotspot, and our prospects are impatient and expect immediate responses.  The Millennial customer has a high level of expectation and is very comfortable doing their buying research from a smartphone.

Millennial sales people are facing many new challenges that previous generations were not concerned with, such as:

• The Internet has changed the way goods and services are sold and purchased.  This negative trend is closing down retail stores and impacting sales people directly, as evidenced by the August 11, 2016, statement from Macy’s announcing that they are closing 15 percent of their department stores nationwide for a total of 100 stores.

• Job security is non-existent, and they most likely will not receive a pension.  There is little reason to remain with a company that does not reward the “trophy kid.”

• Customer habits and their needs are changing, as are the ways they gather information and make decisions.

Millennials’ expectations for work and personal life are sky-high.  They are confident, self-expressive, upbeat and open to change.The challenge comes when faced with their non-Millennial customer who has a very different level of expectation and requires more attention from vendors.

There is also the paradigm of how a manager coaches Millennials and how they best respond to coaching. Whereas the traditional model of manager feedback might be one more of telling and less listening, the skilled manager will provide feedback to the Millennial employee as a dialogue where both parties share the things that went well on the sales call and the areas for improvement, with the manager doing much of the listening.

Don’t be surprised if the Millennial salesperson resists negative feedback. A manager who is willing to tailor their feedback style will be well-served here to ask thoughtful questions to help the salesperson “discover” their opportunities for growth and co-build the performance improvement plan and work on it together.

With the right training and guidance, a flexible Millennial will overcome generational differences, accepting the role of provider.  Be it a goods or service, they are caring people who place a high value on inter-personal relationships.   It should come as no surprise then that this unique generation has tremendous potential when it comes to working in sales — yet they will require a new style of management to nurture their development.

Bob Bolak is President of Sandler Training. He can be reached at 303-579-1939 or bbolak@sandler.com.