How to Manage a Multi-Generational Sales Force

February 14, 2013 at 7:01 AM

Torturous.  Ineffective. Epic time waste. Not relevant. Old school.

These are words Millennials used to describe one-on-one meetings with Sales Managers.  (Millennials, or Generation Y, were born between 1977 and 1998.) These are Millennial Sales Reps that report to Gen X or older Sales Managers.   It’s not uncommon to see sales forces with these mixed generations – older managing younger.  In some cases, even younger managing older. 

Millennials need updated sales management methods

 There are many different areas of managing mult-  generation Sales forces. This post is about updating the  important sales management one-on-one meetings.    With this post, HR Business Partners can help Sales  Managers more effectively manage younger Reps.    Also, download the available tool - a one-on-one  meeting planner for managing Millennials.

 The Problem

Millennials’ words above spell out the problem – a conflict of generational methods.  These methods won’t work if they don’t match the motivations of the intended generation.  What happens is that the method tends to become a traditional activity. And that “activity” doesn’t get updated to address newer generations.  The result? Younger Sales Reps that think the method (nay, activity) is a waste of time.  Sales Managers that don’t see progress in a younger Sales Rep’s development.   Worst case – turnover amongst the younger generation increases.

Let’s look at how this might work with the one-on-one meeting. Here’s a traditional one-on-one sales meeting agenda. I’ve added some notes under each one to explain a Millennial’s take:

  • Review last week’s action items – The Millennial’s response: “We’ve already touched on this over the week via email, Chatter, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Let’ not waste time on it unless I really blew it.” Millennials expect frequent contact/support from the Sales Manager.  The One-on-One meeting should just be a longer version of constant (daily) support.
  • Focus on this week’s action item – “I’m all about learning, but want to know how this is going to help my career path. Besides, I already know about this topic.”
  • Discuss scorecard metrics and pipeline – “This is all in SFDC since I keep it up to date via the mobile app. What I need to discuss are specific steps to take to close that big deal.”
  • Update the development plan with clear action items – “I don’t just want the action items, I need to see the steps for accomplishing each one.”
  • Discuss best practices – “What I need are not just Sales best practices. Teach me and support me to blend work with the rest of my life.”
  • Open Q&A – “I would rather have a structure, not just ‘open’. You start by giving me straight feedback - positive and negative. Can we start the session with this? Remember, I am used to accolades for my performance.”

The Solution

Millennials are different. They tend to have higher expectations than earlier generations. Make sure Sales Managers have valuable one-on-ones with Millennials.  This available download has a suggested one-on-one meeting planner.  It gives you 10 possible areas to cover as well as sample questions.  For example, here are three points to address with Millennials in one-on-ones:

  1. Career path – Millennials want a clear career path and a boss that helps them navigate it.  As part of the one-on-one, Sales Managers should be periodically checking career path progress.  The downloadable tool includes some questions/guidance to ask in this area.  However, this requires Sales Managers to take a longer-term view than traditionally done. Traditionally, the view is on the monthly/quarterly/annual number. 
  2. Personal branding – Millennials are part of the social network.  They will require coaching to continue to improve the professionalism of their brand.  Millennials realize a blended work and personal life is par for the course.  Sales Managers must ensure the Millennial’s digital footprint exudes appropriate company and personal branding. In the past, branding was more centered on face to face relationships. That is still necessary, but virtual relationships are important – and will succeed based on the personal brand.
  3. Parallel worlds – Millennials crave others to recognize that work and life can’t be “balanced”.  Instead, the two are intertwined.  In this case sales and personal lives become one and the same.  Millennials need support for effectively blending their work and personal lives. They don’t want to lose work productivity, yet they also don’t want to lose their personal side. Sales Managers should help them with personal management and productivity learning.  Some Millennials also think it ok to build parallel careers.   Sales Managers must show Millennials how other pursuits can be leveraged for their sales career.  Curiousity/exploration is good to pursue, but not at the expense of their sales employer. 

Call to Action

Seven more Millennial coaching areas are available in this tool. Improve your Sales Managers’ coaching of Millennials.  Download the Millennials One-on-One Meeting Planner to up productivity in Sales. The younger generation will now see value in the one-on-one meetings with Sales Managers. Maybe they’ll start describing the meetings with other words – Valuable. Time well spent. Eagerly awaited. Helpful. Supportive. Engendering loyalty. Relevant.

 

 

sbi on linkedin

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by subscribing by Email or RSS.

Topics: Sales Management, Human Resources, Millennials, sales coaching

Posted by Steve Loftness

Find me on:

Get Updates from the SBI Sales & Marketing Effectiveness Blog