As Business Owners and Sales Managers, one of our key roles is to develop the selling competence of each member of our sales team no matter in what generation they were born.
Yet based on a recent conversation: “They are disloyal, spoilt, self-interested and overly ambitious.” The sales manager who was venting was referring to several of his Generation Y Salespeople. He was also having sales performance issues and employee turnover problems. To fast forward, this sales manager was using the traditional power and authority management style (the military style) that he had experienced as a salesperson. This style is totally inappropriate in ttoday’swork environment and for those of us who lived through it? We didn’t exactly enjoy it.
So who is Generation Y? Generation Y is the label given to people born between 1980-2000. The majority of sales managers today would have been born in 1965-1979 known as Generation X, or they would be Baby Boomers born in the years 1946-1964.
Every generation is unique because of economic and cultural influences that affect their development during childhood and teenage years. These factors impact on their perception, personal values, work styles and all areas of their life. So what differentiates Generation Y from previous generations? In short the answer is that they have grown up in a time with scant job security for their parents who are Baby Boomers, globalization, intense competition and an abundance of technology. They are the most highly educated generation so far.
So what behaviors make Generation Y different?
• They demonstrate a strong loyalty to their peer group
• They like to reach decisions by consensus
• They have a strong sense of community
• They need to connect with friends and so are often on the mobile talking or texting
• Their self worth can be affected if they can’t contact their friends
• They are not as influenced by power and authority
1)Develop their selling competence
Spend regular time with them in their sales territories. They are kinaesthetic learners which mean they need constant movement in order to concentrate and learn. Baby Boomer Sales Managers may find this particularly annoying. However, research has shown that this age group works very effectively with Generation Y in a coaching and mentoring role, more so than do Generation X Sales Managers.
Generation Y are ‘hands-on learners’ and need to be actively involved so keep sales theory to a minimum to avoid information overload or they will ‘switch off’. They are also visual learners because of their comfort with and use of technology.
Provide practical rational reasons why skills are applied and demonstrate selling skills during a sales call. They respond to spontaneity, fun and the personal interaction so let them ‘have a go’ on the next sales call
2) Reward and recognition
Let’s face it: we all feel great when we are recognized for a job well done. Providing positive feedback during a sales coaching session or at sales meetings will impact on Generation Y’s self worth. Generation Y thrive on immediacy so actively look for attitudes and skills that were competently applied. Acknowledging them often and in a genuine manner will motivate them to greater heights.
With Generation Y wanting to tackle challenging tasks (because they grew up with their parents telling them they can do anything) let them do this if they are competent and don’t let their age be a barrier. Allow them to grow professionally because they are ambitious but this doesn’t mean they want your job.
3) Encourage them to be connected
Sales can be a lonely occupation particularly for Generation Y because they enjoy social interaction. This is why you will find them constantly talking on the phone, sending text messages or on their lap top. When they get an opportunity for business networking they will jump at the chance so teach them networking skills. If you have Level 6 competent salespeople in your team, encourage Generation Y Salespeople to communicate regularly with them. They will be motivated to aspire to the higher level of selling competence
4) Work flexibility
Generation Y is motivated by variety and a flexible open work environment. To them there is no difference between social and work boundaries. It’s all about living life. So if for example they start extra early to finish earlier to go to the gym or a community activity, let them. Your adaptability to accommodate them will pay off and you will find they will go above and beyond what is expected of them during their hours of selling
5) Seek their input
Generation Y expects to be treated as an equal and likes to be heard and have their point of view put forward and respected. They like to pass on their ideas and thoughts because they are used to it, having used social media such as Facebook for years. The old saying: ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ works for everyone particularly Generation Y. Be open, relaxed, show genuine interest and understanding and you will have them actively engaged.
6) Set an example
Show sales leadership in an honest and trustworthy manner. If you demonstrate sales competence, implement effective sales coaching and mentoring to develop their selling abilities these practices will impact on their sales performance and trigger strong loyalty toward you.
In summary we need to acknowledge that generational differences and generational diversity exist but this doesn’t mean they need to be a barrier to sales performance or to developing solid relationships. If you understand this generation and adapt your management style to accommodate Generation Y your thoughtfulness will pay dividends in more than sales performance.
Expectations of Gen Y High-Performing Sales Representatives
- Support from my Manager
- Product Training
- Introductions to my team and support staff
- Readiness: Phone, e-mail, account, business cards etc
- Regular Feedback
- Well-defined schedule of training
- Creation of development plan with Manager
- Company culture training
- Introduction of other areas of the company
- Company-appointed mentor
References: Kurt Newman; Louise Anderson (Anderson Performance)