The generational divide in your sales team has likely never felt as wide as it does today. Your seasoned baby boomers — now ages 54 to 72 — are retiring at a rapid pace.
While Gen Xers are part of the mix, millennials — now ages 22 to 37 — already make up the largest group of today’s U.S. labor force.
This seismic shift in demographics has proven to be a stumbling block — a disrupter — to organizations that have not been willing to transform along with it. Rather than viewing at this as a problem, forward-focused sales teams understand the opportunity to tap into this “new” potential for modernizing their approach and sales training to cultivating success.
A Millennial-Focused Strategy
Millennial salespeople are known to be flexible, coachable, communicative, data-driven, and confident. They bring with them a wealth of experience around today’s technologies and processes. Not only will they continue to make up a greater percentage of your sales team, but you will be selling more and more to them as your prospects also undergo this shift.
If this isn’t enough to make you adapt, the financial impact should. According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 43 percent of millennials plan to leave their jobs within two years and only 28 percent plan to stay beyond five. This is a drastic shift in employee loyalty. It's also an expensive one. While it can vary by industry, on average organizations set the cost of an entry-level position turning over at 50 percent of that employee’s salary, a mid-level position at 125 percent of the salary, and a senior executive a more than 200 percent of the salary. These numbers can quickly add up if your organization is experiencing high turnover rates related to a lack of employee loyalty.
Yet, this isn’t the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You have programs and processes that have proven valuable in the past and should still be effective in today’s evolving landscape. However, understanding the millennial mindset (perspectives, behaviors, preferences, and strengths) will help sales teams better attract, train and retain talent.
Attracting the right talent boils down to how well your company’s culture resonates with them. For millennial talent, the factors that are most often prioritized include work-life balance, flexible work environments, purpose-driven initiatives, transparency, and a high-quality work environment. Aligning your policies to speak to these needs will allow you to recruit millennial team members and motivate them to perform at their best.
Additionally, millennials are driven to achieve milestones. Organizations are finding that a defined career path not only plays a major role in attracting sales talent but in retaining it as well. When a new hire knows how each role fits together within an organization, the metrics needed to reach each new level, and the time-frame that it takes to get there, they have a clear road-map for where they are headed within the sales group.
Although millennials are no strangers to classroom-based learning, the traditional sales training programs no longer resonate. While prior generations turn to handbooks, worksheets and facilitators, today’s millennial salesperson is just as comfortable with virtual and digital initiatives. Google and YouTube are often quicker and more accessible teachers for any topic.
Millennial salespeople have a great appreciation for learning and will often seek out employer-sponsored training. They are also known to more quickly adopt and apply what they’ve learned.
Given that millennials are the first group to grow up with technology, it’s no surprise that it’s become the language of their generation. As a result, the most successful sales training programs incorporate interactive and online courses, gamification modules, and platforms that include videos, e-books and podcasts.
Because most millennials in sales lack the basic training to be truly effective in their roles, focusing on topics like leadership skills, prospecting best practices, and sales training methodologies like RAIN Selling, The Challenger Series, and SNAP Selling are a great way to get your millennial talent proficient in achieving their sales quota, logging higher wins, and better aligning your solutions to your customer needs.
Knowing that unmotivated millennials tend to move quickly from employer to employer, it’s important to understand that they need to be engaged and not simply managed. More so than any other generation, millennials are known to flourish in that gray area between being told what to do and figuring it out for themselves. Just as with formal training, old-school methodologies prove ineffective when it comes to coaching; however, proper coaching remains a key competent of retention.
Having a defined roadmap in place for career advancement within your organization is an important step, but understanding how to nurture them on this track is just as important. Thoughtful sales coaching means establishing regular check-ins to provide discussion and feedback on their professional development and advancement.
Known to thrive on teamwork and collaboration, millennials seek opportunities to showcase their strengths, especially in support of other sales team members, as well as learn from the experiences of those members. With this in mind, mentorship programs not only encourage this exchange but also become a valuable part of capturing the knowledge from baby boomers that may be retiring shortly. This strategy also helps millennials and veteran sales professionals to leverage their strengths to make up for what they both lack. For example, veteran sales professionals have the knowledge and tactical experience to execute the sales process whereas millennial sales professionals have the technological know-how to build online relationships and best practices for social selling. In this situation, both parties benefit from the knowledge exchange.
To have a millennial-focused strategy in place for your sales organization your team may need to make some changes, but in doing so, you can fortify your ability to continue moving the needle in a positive direction. Millennials are fast learners who are quick to adopt and implement what they learn and they’re always finding new ways to approach sales. Organizations that are able to successfully tap into this well of energy and determination have a greater chance to become more efficient and effective in today’s transforming marketplace.
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