Sales force management and millennials


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Sales force composition is changing: as companies hire millennials, the generational diversity inside their sales forces is expanding. This trend introduces several significant challenges – How do you engage millennial sales reps? How do you motivate them? And, how are their interests and needs alike and different than the rest of the sales team?

As part of a Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) initiative, 5,000 millennials were interviewed – the findings were reported in strategy + business. We’ve blogged about millennial sales reps before [Feedback to millennial sales reps – more is better! The millennials are coming – what are the implications for sales training?] but this new study provides some additional points for understanding how to manage millennials:

  • Millennials are more willing to defer to authority than either boomers or Gen Xers. This provides sales management with an opportunity to shape millennial’s behavior by ensuring they understand the organization’s culture and expectations. Millennials are more likely to thrive if they know up-front the ingredients for success in the workplace.
  • Millennials have about the same level of organizational commitment as boomers. Millenials are not some group apart. As was the case with boomers, millennials want work they will actually enjoy and find meaningful. Like most people they understand that it’s not all going to be fascinating, but a reasonable portion of it can and should be.

Ensuring that millennials are engaged contributors in the workforce will be critical for every organization’s long-term viability. Best advice: Rather than trying to figure out what particular incentive or behavioral gimmick is going to make millennials more committed and less likely to leave instead focus on the fundamental.

So, as CCL concludes: make sure millennials are fairly compensated; have interesting work to do; and have the opportunity to learn, develop, and advance. Leaders can best manage a multigenerational workplace if they understand and address the special interests and needs of each group but first and foremost focus on creating an organizational culture that supports all employees regardless of when they were born.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.


  1. Apologies for trotting out this over-worn bit of wisdom, but I couldn’t help but think it when I read your blog, which makes some great points.

    One challenge I’ve experienced–well, two really–are that

    1) unlike previous generations, millennials come to the job with skills and experiences that are greater than those they’re reporting to. In many cases, they’ve traveled internationally, they’re experienced working in diverse cultures. Many are bilingual. This changes the meaning of “onboarding” in that the process is more bilateral today than it was. For example, I have as much to learn from younger people about strategic use of social media tools as they might about the fundamentals of selling my product or service.

    2) culture, ethics, and mores are much more important to discuss at sales meetings today than they once were. These topics have always been important, it’s just that unfortunate communications are now propelled at Internet speed via social networks. Companies can’t afford to ignore the risks.

    Two blogs I wrote on this topic might be of interest to your readers:

    Human Talent or Party Animal: When an Employee’s Social Media Content becomes a Legal Liability


    Toward a Social Sales Force: Ominous Lessons from Rutgers


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