Feedback to millennial sales reps – more is better!

Much has been written about Millennials – a generation comprising 26% of the population who will have significant impact on the workplace. Yet one aspect of Millennials in the sales force only tangentially touched, but which will have significant implications for sales management,is the desire for more feedback.    

We know Millennials are open to coaching and view feedback as a developmental opportunity. That’s great – but how much feedback is enough? The headline in the Wall St. Journal caught my eye – Yearly Review? Try Weekly – Accustomed to Updates, New Generation of Workers Craves Regular Feedback.Regardless of your opinion about the value of annual performance reviews, they alone just don’t fit the coaching expectations and feedback needs of Millennials who have had close guidance from their parents and instant feedback and communication from friends via text messages, Facebook, and Twitter updates.    

Coaching and Providing Feedback to Millennials


So, welcome to the “status-update” era.  Some companies are adjusting to this new era by augmenting annual performance review sessions with quarterly or weekly feedback sessions. Facebook, for example, encourages staff to solicit and provide feedback regularly, but not necessarily on a formally scheduled basis. They encourage sharing feedback after meetings, presentations or projects – asking:  How did it go? or How could it have been done better? Others, like Grasshopper LLC, a 50-person company, moved from annual reviews to one-on-one meetings every two weeks. At Grasshopper all issues are potential agenda topics in these 30-40 minute meetings.    

But what about Sales? Regardless of the type of business or company size, the heavy lifting for coaching and feedback falls to the front-line sales manager. These sales managers usually find themselves managing sales teams that span age, experiences, achievements, and geographies – resulting in a significant coaching and feedback challenge. Whether or not their companies formally increase their feedback and coaching requirements, the Millennials on their sales teams will demand more.    

So, how might sales managers meet the coaching and feedback expectation of the Millennial generation?    

1. Understand the Millennials experiences. Every year Beloit College distributes The Beloit Mindset to its faculty, sharing the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering the college. Look at the list for the Class of 2010, and it’s easy to see how the Millennial experience differs from others in the workplace – examples: for Millennials, the Soviet Union never existed, it takes longer to make a coffee than a milkshake, and “google” has always been a verb.      

Understanding their shared cultural experiences and their expectations are critical for Sales Managers to effectively coach Millennials and to provide the feedback they need. However, individual differences can’t be ignored – they are present and important in every generation.        

2. Use technology.  Public Enemy No. 1 for sales managers is time. If, as demanded by Millennials, more coaching and feedback is going to take place, many of the traditional approaches are simply too time consuming in a world with seemingly unending demands on sales managers time and geographically scattered territories.       

As the 2010 Beloit Mindset also shared, this generation is “wireless, yet always connected”. Technology is an effective – and acceptable – vehicle to provide feedback to Millennials and equally important, it’s efficient.       

3. Leverage customer experiences.  It can be argued that sales people get continuous feedback from their prospects and clients – some calls go well, others miss the mark.  A huge opportunity is missed if these experiences are not leveraged as a developmental opportunity.  Sales managers need to provide their teams with a simple post-call protocol for analyzing the results and then periodically review insights gained.    

4. Maximize the power of the group.  Millennials prefer working in teams and have a history of constant feedback and communication with their peers.  Yet time – or the lack of – is a top problem for sales managers. So, it makes great sense to use the peer group as an additional source for coaching and feedback. The sales manager needs to provide the structure for this type of feedback to be effective.    

What have been your experiences providing feedback to and coaching Millennial sales reps?    

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC    

About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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