Build a millennial-minded sales organization to create a sustainable revenue machine.
Putting whatever prejudices you may have about millennials aside for a moment, building a millennial-minded sales organization isn’t simply about appeasing the “entitled generation”. It’s also about building a sales coaching and development culture within your sales organization that will benefit employees of all ages—and your top line.
Roughly 73 million people were born in the US between 1982 and 1996. Now the largest generation in the workforce, millennials are claiming their place on the org chart and challenging workplace norms. Millennials’ unique experiences and characteristics have inspired a tremendous amount of research, literature, training seminars, and (let’s not forget) ire from those who manage them.
But we’ve come to understand the millennial mindset much better since their debut in the job market in the early 2000s. Companies and teams have made significant changes in procedures, expectations, compensation, benefits, and review structures to engage and motivate their millennial workforce. However, the traditional sales organization continues to struggle with developing, motivating and retaining millennial sellers.
As sales leaders, we need to reconsider the traditional structure of our sales team to build a millennial-minded sales organization.
What is a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization?
Let’s take a look at the motivators that are typically characteristic of your millennial team. Millennials are the first generation of digital natives. They are connected to limitless information at their fingertips but remain unconstrained by norms and relationships. They don’t accept “the way it’s always been” and instead push for change they believe in.
Millennials are often characterized as idealistic, valuing experience and a sense of purpose over money. While this may have some truth to it, the underlying reality is that your millennial employees are paid less (inflation-adjusted) and have far greater debt than their Baby Boomer and GenX counterparts did at their age. They expect that, while they are just squeaking by financially now, they can achieve financial security by developing relevant skills that make them more marketable and gaining experience. They are very focused on professional growth, and they are impatient about how they get it.
Organizations are adjusting compensation, training and development, communication and transparency, and hierarchy structures to build millennial-minded organizations.
However, the sales organization continues to struggle with making these adjustments. With the fast-paced, “produce or perish” atmosphere typical of any sales team, making room for the millennial mindset is seen as being simply impossible.
Are You Ready for a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization?
You’re the CSO. You have about 18 months to prove that you can move the company’s revenue forward to reach its goal, otherwise you’re out. How do you prove you can do the job?
If you follow the traditional Sales Leader playbook, you rely heavily on driving activity and goal compliance through Salesforce. You focus on the classic top-down hierarchy of communication and squeezing maximum productivity out of each asset and hour you have available to you. All this means that you identify where people work at their best and then you keep them there. Because change creates waste—wasted time, wasted productivity, wasted effort.
Rather than moving people around, letting them try new things, and figuring out how to develop people, the comp plan is really your favorite motivator. And why not? We all know that salespeople are coin-operated. You put the money incentive in, and revenue comes out.
But with all that we’ve learned about millennials in the workplace over the past several years, the reality is that your traditional means of motivating people and operating a salesforce is quickly becoming irrelevant. This new crop of reps and entry-level managers expect something very different. They expect more. You can love them. You can hate them. But you can’t ignore the impact millennials are currently having—and will continue to have—on our sales organizations.
“Millennials Aren’t My Problem”
At this point, you may be thinking that this just isn’t your problem. Millennials are entitled and they need to just get over it or go back to living off their mommies and daddies.
Well, you’re wrong. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, a segment that will only continue to grow over the coming years. Furthermore, get ready for GenZ coming in behind them. While they are different from millennials in many ways, they are still expected to expect many of the same workplace reforms that millennials have pushed for.
Plus, you have a bigger problem. Only 56% of your sales reps are attaining quota, and you have better odds of winning it big in Vegas and being able to retire early than you do of getting an accurate forecast from your sales managers. You may have about a 25% turnover rate, largely due to missed quotas, burnout, and top reps getting recruited away. By the way, these numbers have been an issue for sales leaders around the globe for decades. You can’t simply blame it on the “new kids” coming in and not being loyal. This is your problem, and it’s only going to get worse.
You can no longer afford to maintain the status quo. You need a solution to developing your millennial sales team now, so you can enjoy the returns into the future.
Aligning Needs in a Millennial-Minded Sales Organization
We’ve established that your millennial-minded sales reps (and, potentially, entry-level managers) are looking for something perhaps a bit more than you are traditionally able to provide. But your revenue goal reality is not just going to go away. So how can you build a millennial-minded sales organization without sacrificing efficacy and performance?
Solution: The Sales Team Development Loop.
Using a sales team development loop, you can put the development of your entire sales team on auto-pilot, allowing you to improve your team’s overall effectiveness while satisfying your sales reps’ need for professional development and continual feedback.
HubSpot is an example of how this works for millennial-minded sales teams. Working with their SMB team, we were able to help young frontline sales managers learn how to coach their sales reps to help improve performance and retention on the team. Running a sales development loop with HubSpot’s SMB sales team, we partnered with sales leaders and operations to build a millennial-minded sales organization where learning and development are key to measuring and improving performance—and hitting quota every month.