Managing and Developing Millennial Salespeople
How can Millennial salespeople grow and fulfill their potential while also ensuring they have the mindset, motivation and drive to achieve critical business and revenue objectives?
As more Millennials enter the sales profession, they are pushing their organizations to shift their learning strategies and approaches. They have strong expectations and they’ve made them clear:
Use the latest technology platforms for learning. Provide me with just-in-time feedback. Make the learning instantly accessible and available at my pace. And give me more opportunities to learn in a collaborative environment.
Oh, and I don’t just want to pick up some knowledge; I want to learn for personal enrichment and professional fulfillment as well.
This is something Kevin King, our VP of Healthcare, has seen more and more in his work with pharmaceutical and medical device companies, where it’s common to recruit younger, inexperienced sales representatives, many of whom are in their first jobs out of college.
But of course, this isn’t restricted to a single industry. Millennials as a group have grown up with technology, and they expect learning to be fun, engaging, social and at their fingertips, when and where they want it. They are not only more comfortable with technology platforms; they’re fascinated by them—and demand them. It’s requiring many L&D professionals to get outside their own comfort zones to strategize new approaches and rethink their delivery methods.
As all-consuming as technology seems, though, it’s still a tool. The broader question we should be thinking about first is, how can we help Millennial salespeople grow and fulfill their potential while also ensuring they have the mindset, motivation and drive to achieve critical business and revenue objectives?
What We Can Learn From Millennials
In a recent podcast interview, Kevin shared some of his insights related to managing, developing and retaining younger associates. While acknowledging that continuous learning has always been essential for getting sustained results from sales training, he emphasizes that the Millennial desire for ongoing education and learning is upping the ante.
And that’s a good thing. We know the old performance management systems don’t work. It’s past time for a new approach.
Here’s the good news about understanding what Millennials are looking for. Those expectations can provide a solid jumping-off point to help you structure a more effective long-term performance and talent management strategy.
Here are a few of the expectations Kevin outlines in the podcast:
- Put personal development front and center.
- Provide supportive feedback early and often.
- Operate with honesty, integrity and respect.
- Align coaching with broader purpose, meaning and inspiration.
- Follow up frequently to counter today’s endless distractions.
- Provide opportunities to collaborate and shine as team players.
- Offer rewarding work experiences.
- Value work/life balance.
If you’re looking for how to adapt to the reality that “companies need to stop managing performance and start actually developing it,” this is a pretty good list to get you started.
Are Your Sales Managers Ready?
This isn’t just about your sales representatives; this is equally about your sales managers.
Millennials are looking for trust, engagement and alignment to the work, and that starts with the manager. To meet the changing needs of both the workforce and the business, the command-and-control model of management has to give way to a more collaborative, participative coaching approach and focus. As Kevin puts it, today’s sales leaders must come to the workplace with an open mind and flexible leadership style.
Many managers view these changes with skepticism or even exasperation. It sounds like more work in an era where everyone is already feeling overloaded and dealing with pressure from all sides. But this is a small upfront investment that can deliver huge gains over the long term.
And in fact, communication can be as simple as a quick e-mail response, a text or a one-minute conversation. Millennials expect immediate gratification, and “in-the-moment” feedback is often the best way to provide coaching. The task for L&D and sales executives: ensuring your sales managers have both the skills and the coaching mindset to deliver on this new requirement—and then holding them accountable to new expectations.
Regular, effective coaching should connect with the salesperson’s values and interests. Focus on expanding that individual’s personal belief boundaries and keep Millennials engaged in their work and driven to achieve more. And that means fewer headaches for your managers.