Independent, tech-savvy, social, and optimistic – why are these “kids” so hard to manage?
Seasoned sales managers are facing challenges managing new Millennial’s, also known as people born after 1980. These new sales professionals have a different approach to life. This greatly impacts their ability to sell effectively.
Understanding them and some key events that took place during their youth will help you manage your Millennial sales team with shorter ramp times.
What is different about the new Millennial sales team?
Their work styles, motivations and view of the worlds, especially the corporate world.
For example Millennials:
- Demonstrate loyalty to their social network and specific managers and members of the team, but not to the company.
- Grew up during a technology explosion. Their every day reality included video, cell phones, laptops, and iPods.
- Are addicted to reality television, Google and websites like Myspace and Facebook. In this world information is available for the asking. That’s why they believe in putting everything out there for all to see.
- Faced school violence and global terrorism (specifically 9-11). This made them wary about the world. It also helped them develop a global perspective.
- Have the ability to find information about anything at a rate that far exceeds expectations of management. What they lack is discernment about the accuracy of the information. If it’s on the Net they tend to believe it must be accurate. They can instantly communicate this information to their social network via Blogs, Instant Messaging (IM), personal Web pages and cell phones. Some companies have found out the hard way that their management mistakes are common knowledge within days, if not hours.
- Do not know their own strengths and weaknesses because there have not been many opportunities for self-evaluation or honest, constructive criticism. With hundreds of possible activities, from soccer to music lessons, Millennials have been over-committed and over-scheduled.
- Were smothered in praise with constant reinforcement about how great they are. That’s why they expect recognition for everything, even the most mundane activities.
This creates your greatest management challenges:
- How do you help them understand that there are winners and losers in the sales world?
- How do you provide constructive criticism without devastating their psyche?
This is new ground for both the sales manager and the new Millennial sales professional.
Here’s My Simple 4-Step Process to Managing Your New Millennial Sales Team
- The first time they approach you, work with them to think through at least three options. Then make the decision for them. Having them consider options is the first step of developing your new sales team’s ability to reason.
- When they want your input, make sure they have created three options to discuss. Help them understand the consequences of each option. Add in other options if they haven’t considered all of the consequences.
- Guide them toward the course to action you want. Essentially they will be making the recommendation, which you are approving.
- Cut them loose and have them handle a situation on their own. However, also have them provide a written report. The report needs to tell you what the situation was, the options they considered and the decision they made. This step won’t last that long as their need for independence will kick in and they’ll just stop coming to you with every little situation.
Keep in mind that these new sales professionals are going to need much more coaching than their predecessors. Unlike other generations, they grew up protected. And, they interacted with others largely through technology. This created a generation whose people savvy is very limited. So, guide them and help them understand the nuances of body language, the uniqueness of each person’s office and what the contents of that office reveals about the customer.
You may even want to give them a copy of my book, “People Savvy for Sales Professionals” that covers these points in great detail.
And remember, when coaching Millennials your focus and approach may need to be different from others you have worked with. Here’s how…
- Provide structure and give information in bite-size pieces.
- Praise them for their efforts
- Present mistakes as development opportunities
- Use technology freely before and after the session.
- Provide the rationale behind your coaching.
- Sell your Millennial sales team on the idea of discretion
Smart sales managers focus on developing their Millennial’s people savvy. They understand flexible work roles and create effective virtual teams. They leverage technology that will help Millennials become a valuable asset sooner rather than later. And, most importantly they meet the challenges of working with, not against, the new Millennial sales team generation.