“Building the best team possible is a crucial step for businesses that are serious about accelerating their sales,” explains Colleen Francis, founder of Engage Selling Solutions. “Solving the millennial challenge needs to be your top task in that bigger job.”
As a sales strategist, Francis works with companies to develop methods of attracting and retaining top talent. While that search cuts across generational lines, her work with top-ranked sales organizations has helped her formulate specific advice on how best to reach this millennial generation -- the sales force and sales leaders of tomorrow.
It starts with adopting a new mindset. “Get ready to turn what you think you know about sales on its head,” says Francis. “The tried and true methods of recruiting young people just don’t work anymore. And that means you need to take a hard look all the way down to your corporate structure and rethink what it needs to do to be able to better drive sellers and influence buyer behavior.”
Here are five steps your business can take now to help solve the challenge of recruiting millennials for sales roles.
1) Money really does talk. Time does, too.
Pay for performance with no cap. Far too often executives put a cap on sales incentive plans. That turns off millennials. They view it as an arbitrary limit on their earning potential. And quite frankly, they have point.
Consider individualizing your company pay scale. Don’t be afraid to have unique bonuses for individual top performers. Put away the old-school invitations to a president’s club or winner’s circle. Instead, offer something that is meaningful to the seller -- ahead of what’s meaningful to your organization.
Time off can be just as valuable as money. Consider the example of a sales director of an international software company. He successfully motivated his younger team members by offering them a mix of time off and some extra money to invest in what they enjoyed doing.
2) Catch people doing the right thing.
Praise goes a long way, even with younger employees. Millennials want to feel they are contributing to your organization and to your client base. Case in point: A client recently lost a top performing millennial seller who was earning $250,000 annually. Why? Because that seller felt her contributions were not valued by the CEO.
Take more time to listen carefully to young reps' suggestions, and offer praise for good work. Just as important, go out of your way to highlight client success stories on a regular basis. When a client accomplishes great things using your product or service this is a sign that your organization is not just “selling stuff,” but making a difference to the lives of the people and businesses that you serve.
3) Flexibility is a big deal.
Does it really matter if your sellers are in the office nine to five every day? Consider adopting flexible work arrangements for top performers that allow them to work at home if they are producing.
Here are two examples. First, there’s Melissa, a young sales director based in the Netherlands who manages a team in Singapore. She chooses to work from Miami Beach throughout the winter. Her company’s leaders are happy with this arrangement because her results are excellent.
Second example: David in Canada is a top seller who works hard at managing two territories and consistently delivers great results. His employer lets him go home every weekday from noon to four to rest up and have an early dinner. Then he comes back to the office and works late into the evening. While that’s not a great schedule for many people, it’s ideal for David and his performance numbers back that up.
4) Be a leader, not a follower in embracing new technology.
Too often, this gets overlooked in organizations with legacy systems. Millennials are highly connected. Embrace a work style that encourages connectivity, using multiple platforms and multiple media for reaching clients. Excessive limits on or over-managing of social media activities only repel this new generation of sales performers, to say nothing of what it can do to your reputation with customers. If you’re worried about responsible behavior online, offer a class to sellers on what’s expected of them before you allow them to log in to their platforms of choice. Never shut them off completely. If you find yourself on the wrong side of progress, you’re bound to be seen by millennials as not worth their time.
5) Rethink your expectations about retention and loyalty.
One of the biggest complaints companies make today about millennial hires is that they leave too soon and jump from job to job. That’s not a generational problem. It’s a symptom of a corporate problem -- of not knowing how best to harness the millennial sprit and their capabilities, and of not accepting that ambition is an important part of being young.
The old way was to assume you would keep a seller in place for five years and it would only be in year two that they would become profitable. What if you assumed today that this seller was only going to be in place for two years? Could you onboard them quickly and make sure they were profitable in six months? The faster a millennial seller is profitable, the happier they are. The happier they are, the better job they do, and the longer they will stay.
Your next step: Know what’s at stake.
Experts tell us that 2015 is the year millennials will surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation in the United States. That’s a worldwide trend and it’s one that will keep growing well into this century.
Therefore, it’s vital that businesses get serious about tackling the millennial challenge. Make your organization a more attractive place for this young, vibrant generation to invest their time and their considerable talents.
This is about more than chasing a demographic. These are the future leaders of business and the future top sales performers. You need them more than they need you. By making your company be seen as a great place for these young sellers to grow and thrive, you are positioning yourself for steady growth and accelerating sales for years to come.
Originally published May 6, 2015 8:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017