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Many companies have aspects that appeal to this generation, and there are three critical factors you can focus on to attract and grow millennial salespeople.

By Boris Zecevic

Now totaling roughly two billion people, the millennial generation plays a dominant role in how organizations operate today and what they will need to do to remain successful going forward. According to an Ernst & Young study, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025. The question is, will they want to work for you?

As a millennial myself, I take on my sales role with great ambition and achievement drive, ready to contribute, but there are also things that I know what I want from my company. Many companies have aspects that appeal to this generation, and there are a variety of areas you can focus on to attract and grow millennial talent, but let’s focus on three primary factors they consider when deciding to leave or join a sales team.

1. Purpose

It shouldn’t be a surprise that purpose is at or near the top of the list for many sales reps in my age group. The concept of purpose can be broken down into two elements:

First, millennial salespeople enjoy working for organizations that exist for reasons beyond the bottom line. They want to be part of something that is bigger than them, so they’ll value the opportunity to make a positive change in the environment, for instance, or improve the quality of life for others through local charitable organizations.

How do successful companies demonstrate this is part of their mission? A great example is Apple’s Progress Report for 2017, which detailed how the tech giant has saved an estimated 8 billion gallons of fresh water through their suppliers’ process. Their employees know that they work for a company that is socially responsible and thinks beyond the bottom line.

The second element is pursuing a well-defined mission and strong set of company values – not just on a company’s website or corporate lobby, but through the behavior of its leaders and employees. Building a culture that brings your corporate values to life creates an environment of success and a stronger sense of connection among staff. In the recent Integrity in Selling Study™, 95% of companies surveyed said “Integrity” is one of their organizational values. Sadly only 38% believed that employees can be trusted to keep their promises and commitments. The implications of this delta are severe and can breed cynicism and disengagement, which show up in lack of quota achievement and turnover.

One way to address this is ensuring that your organization’s sales approach actually puts these principles into practice with your customers. If your company’s mantra is “We value customers first,” does your sales approach lead your customers to come to the same conclusion?

2. Management Attitudes

Sales is, in many aspects, a pay-for-performance role. People assume that the only tangible reward for hitting quota and doing a good job is the commission check.

While earning higher commissions is always a goal, for millennial salespeople it is only one of the motivating factors, and in some cases, not even the most important one. Millennials also want to be in a position where they can grow both professionally and personally. So, we seek feedback and recognition frequently. In fact, according to Oxford Economics, we typically want feedback 50% more often than any other employees. To us, having a coach is more important than having a manager.

How well-equipped are your managers to meet this growing demand for coaching? Here’s a quick test: As you look across your management team, do they tend to direct and tell their reps what to do and how to do it, or help them discover solutions for themselves and provide guidance where necessary to move your sales reps closer to their goals? Managing to activities will always be important, but having a culture of coaching will help elevate your organization as a desired place to work.

3. Ongoing Learning and Development

Your company invests in a two-day sales training workshop, then releases the reps out into the field with a link to a website for “reinforcement” and hopes something will stick. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. This common practice gives salespeople the knowledge they need to be successful, but it usually fails to create any shift in behavior and performance. Management then gets frustrated that the training isn’t translating into productivity. L & D gets frustrated because management isn’t holding their sales reps accountable to go to the online modules. And the cycle continues.

Millennials want to be developed; we value training. However, what happens beyond a training event is more important for us. We’re used to an environment of rapid change and learning, so we want to be equipped from a skills perspective for every step of our careers, Yes, we grew up with online access and want digital learning. But we also know that only raises awareness and builds knowledge. For actual skills, we also need real-world application, classroom training, virtual training and coaching to help us build our personal brands. And we will highly value and be loyal to an organization that provides this level of support as opposed to one that doesn’t.

What would that high-achieving millennial tell you to do to convince them your organization is the right place for them?

“Give me a purpose, a coach, and develop my skills.”

It might be a bit simplified, but the above concepts are very human concepts, ones that in-demand salespeople of any generation care about. The companies that are focused on them find it’s helping not just build the talent pipeline but improve retention rates of their high performers, too.

As millennials become a larger percentage of the workforce, organizations are increasingly looking for ways to improve technology and processes to accommodate them. Those things matter. But creating an environment that fosters engagement, integrity and purpose will deliver the biggest returns in the long run.

About the Author
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Bruce Wedderburn

Chief Sales Officer

Since 2016 Bruce has led the Sales organization with a passion for creating impactful results for clients through the successful...
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