Today’s post is by Justin Zappulla, managing partner at Janek Performance Group.
Millennial sales reps don’t always see the world the same way as their sales managers.
Technological advancements often signify divides between generations. But there may be no sharper divide than that between the Information Age Gen-X/baby boomers and the Digital Age millennials.
The globalization of digital information, awareness, and communication has created a generation far different from its predecessors. As a result, astute sales managers will recognize that coaching millennial sales reps will require tactics different from older sales reps.
Three Ways to Adapt Your Sales Coaching Style
Here are three basic tips to help you adapt your sales coaching style to millennial sales reps.
Tip #1: Use structure and guidelines.
Many millennials grew up in an environment where their day was carefully plotted and scheduled, with many after-school activities, sports, etc. Their educational system emphasized standardized test scores, resulting in teaching to exams – a process that necessitated instruction in a specific structure and format.
For a considerable portion of millennial sales reps, hearing the phrase “figure it out” can be alarming. When your formative years had a built-in structure and clear guidelines, you might naturally find the open waters of uncertainty and vagueness disturbing.
When coaching sales reps of this generation, use structure and guidelines – both in the sales coaching session itself and the skills and accounts being coached to. It will make things much easier for your reports and it has the side benefit of forcing you, as a sales manager, to clearly articulate and define a given skill or your organization’s processes and expectations. This, in turn, will have positive effects on the rest of the sales team.
Tip #2: Make technology your friend.
To paraphrase Bane from the recent Batman film franchise, millennials were born in technology, molded by it. This extends into the generation’s daily life, where a large portion will look up how to do something via YouTube instructional videos, for example.
You, too, can use technology to your coaching advantage with millennials. (Explanatory videos not only appeal to this age group but will aid older visual learners on your team.) Also consider gamification apps for sales training reinforcement, and using technology to provide feedback, disseminate data, and distribute metrics information.
Tip #3: Give consistent and frequent feedback.
It’s inaccurate to say millennials have poorer interpersonal communications than previous generations. Rather, the form of communication has changed. Rather than face-to-face, much conversing takes place via text, social media platforms, and other forms of digital communication.
In fact, there’s even more communication in the digital, global society than we’ve ever had before – it’s just that less of it occurs face-to-face. Given this increased, real-time discussion, particularly against the background noted in our first point, your millennial sales reps will expect consistent, frequent feedback on their performance.
So provide that feedback on the expected timelines. It’ll make you a more effective sales manager because you’ll be able to 1) spot issues before they become serious and 2) develop a closer relationship between you and your team members.
Adapting to Sales Coaching Changes
Yes, sales managers are being asked to adapt during a time of massive change. (Don’t forget: Generation Z also began entering the workforce last year.) But change also brings opportunity. Try these tips and you’ll strengthen and improve your company’s sales coaching culture, and get a greater return on your efforts.