Building a Millennial-Friendly Sales Bench


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Move over, Baby Boomers: Millennials will comprise half the workforce by 2020 and are rapidly replacing retiring Baby Boomers. They are future high-performing sales leaders in the making – bringing fresh energy, a tech-savvy embrace and new perspectives in selling to customers who, like them, came of age amidst a shifting B2B buying process.

Trouble is, organizations that attempt to cultivate Millennial sales stars the same way as previous generations – employing old-school methods – have another thought coming. A recent Quora discussion, “Millennials: Does Working in Sales Suck?,” underscores the heightened value that Millennials place on aspects of their daily work. They expect greater work/life balance, to be measured on more than just financial performance, and to achieve steady career progression.

To succeed, organizations must move beyond status quo sales development approaches to new ways of engaging and empowering future-generation sales leaders – on their own terms.

Access to Leadership and New Skills is Key
Millennials know there are plenty of sales jobs out there, so if the one they have is long on frustration and short on engagement, efficiency and empowerment, there’s no reason to linger. According to a recent SiriusDecisions study, 82% of Millennials ranked access to leadership and coaching as critically important to job satisfaction and growth.

With an average salesperson to sales manager ratio of 6:1, managers are typically able to dedicate little more than 20% of their time to coaching and mentoring salespeople – on top of their executive, customer-facing and operational roles. The challenge is how to generate the most value from very little time and access to mentors.

In reality, the urgency to meet forecast finds many sales managers coaching on deal-related tasks rather than coaching on the sort of sales competencies that advance skills and career growth. While both approaches have their place, coaching competencies such as competitive positioning, negotiation skills, etc., can have the greatest long-term impact on the success of Millennial sales teams.

Adding further fuel to the fire, many organizations lack programs designed to help busy, often overwhelmed sales coaches and managers effectively engage their Millennial sales reps. Data from a Sales Management Association study indicates that 43% of companies lack competency-based development programs for their managers. As a result, an overwhelming 77% of firms said they don’t provide enough coaching.

Further, the tendency to reward superstar sales reps by promoting them into sales leaders doesn’t help. Most of these individuals haven’t had access to good coaching and often don’t know what good coaching looks like. This leads to frontline managers flying blind, without access to data and skills that help them know if their sales reps have what it takes to deliver on increasing revenue expectations.

The answer to success lies in something that Millennials and their managers can agree upon: technology.

Emerging Technologies Can Streamline the Coaching Process
Sales technology used to be synonymous with CRM systems, yet the sector has exploded with new options for using insights and observations to help time-pressed managers conduct more meaningful coaching experiences. These solutions bring together a range of real-time data sources in one place, including system-generated proficiency and engagement metrics, observed sales competencies, confidence ratings and CRM-triggered coaching actions to provide a complete, visual view of team strengths. 

Applying data-driven approaches to coaching, sales leaders can more quickly target and prioritize 1:1 coaching plans and identify team-wide gaps in required knowledge or behaviors to address them faster – at scale. Companies that use such data-driven technology are able to achieve a decrease in sales rep turnover and higher quota attainment.

In this hypercompetitive era, cultivating Millennials is key to an organization’s future sales success and a vital contributor to the bottom line. Those who embrace it with a coaching culture, aided by data-driven solutions, are poised for a strong Millennial sales bench and long-term success.

Lisa Clark
Lisa Clark is Vice President of Marketing at Qstream.  She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share.


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