Sales force management and millennials


Sales force composition is changing: as companies hire millennials, the generational diversity inside their sales forces is expanding. This trend introduces several significant challenges – How do you engage millennial sales reps? How do you motivate them? And, how are their interests and needs alike and different than the rest of the sales team?

As part of a Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) initiative, 5,000 millennials were interviewed – the findings were reported in strategy + business. We’ve blogged about millennial sales reps before [Feedback to millennial sales reps – more is better! The millennials are coming – what are the implications for sales training?] but this new study provides some additional points for understanding how to manage millennials:

  • Millennials are more willing to defer to authority than either boomers or Gen Xers. This provides sales management with an opportunity to shape millennial’s behavior by ensuring they understand the organization’s culture and expectations. Millennials are more likely to thrive if they know up-front the ingredients for success in the workplace.
  • Millennials have about the same level of organizational commitment as boomers. Millenials are not some group apart.  As was the case with boomers, millennials want work they will actually enjoy and find meaningful. Like most people they understand that it’s not all going to be fascinating, but a reasonable portion of it can and should be.

Ensuring that millennials are engaged contributors in the workforce will be critical for every organization’s long-term viability. Best advice: Rather than trying to figure out what particular incentive or behavioral gimmick is going to make millennials more committed and less likely to leave instead focus on the fundamental.

So, as CCL concludes: make sure millennials are fairly compensated; have interesting work to do; and have the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. Leaders can best manage a multigenerational workplace if they understand and address the special interests and needs of each group but first and foremost focus on creating an organizational culture that supports all employees regardless of when they were born.

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©2012 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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