Experts tell us that 2015 is the year millennials will surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation. How prepared is your organization to tackle this?
Here are four ways you can help position your organization to attract more young people to a career in sales and solve the millennial challenge.
1. Treat time as a valuable currency.
There are two dimensions of the problem to look at here. First, time off can be just as valuable as money. It pays great dividends back to you because a well rested, high-energy sales performer is remarkably efficient at getting things done on the job. A sales director that I know at a international software company has done a remarkable job of successfully motivating his younger team members by offering them a mix of time off and some extra money to invest in what they enjoyed doing. He's regularly pleased with the sales results he gets from his team, just by doing things a little differently than before.
Second, demonstrate with actions–not just empty promises–that you understand the importance of flexible work hours. If you've long expected your staff to stick to a 9 to 5 schedule, maybe it's time you stopped and asked if it's time to rethink that old way of doing business. Remember: you're hiring people to produce results, not to just punch a clock. Flexible work hours can have an amazingly positive effect on your sales results, but only if you commit to making it work.
2. Being technology friendly and platform agnostic isn't a bonus feature: it's expected.
Be ready to be judged by millennials by your ability to understand new technology and by your openness to using many platforms to get the job done. This is a big problem for organizations that saddle their staff with legacy IT systems. Remember: millennials are a highly connected generation. They put premium value on employers who let them use the tools of their own choosing–tablets versus desktop computers, or cloud-based collaborative services versus stand-alone software, as just two examples.
3. Commitment and loyalty are not millennial problems: they are business problems.
Far too often, we hear sales leaders complain that millennial hires have an allergy to commitment and loyalty: that they leave too soon and jump from job to job. That's not a generational problem. It's symptomatic of a deeper problem in your business: of not knowing how to keep your youngest sales performers appropriately challenged and compensated.
Start by accepting the fact that ambition and restlessness are important qualities of being young. 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 a shorter period of time? 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.
4. Money still matters but in a way that's different from before.
Far too often, senior executives put a cap on sales incentive plans for their junior staff. Why in the world would you do this? That just turns off millennials, because they see it as an arbitrary limit on being compensated for working hard.
Just as important: rethink the way you approach bonuses. There was once a time when inviting a top achiever to a President's Club winner's circle was thought of as prestigious. But now, it's going to be viewed as something that matters more to you than it does to them. Talk to your younger staff. Ask them what makes them want to work harder and earn more. How do they celebrate achievement among their peers? Act on the answers you uncover.
Remember solving the millennial challenge is about more than chasing a demographic. These are the future leaders of business and the future top performers in sales. You need them more than they need you. Solve this and you're positioned for steady growth and accelerating sales for years to come.
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