Everything You Need To Know About Millennial Sales Reps

January 13, 2016 Richard Bayston

The first wave of millennials (those born from the early 80s and on) are now well established in the workplace. Since many of them don’t resemble their media stereotypes at all - something we’ll get into more detail on in a moment - managers may not be fully aware of how many Gen Yers they already have.

But if you’re hiring your first, or you’re thinking of hiring another millennial sales rep, what do you need to know? Are millennials really all slouchy pants and entitlement? Are they flitting from job to job looking for some nebulous concept of fulfillment? Basically, are you looking at hiring the cast of Girls?

Never fear. It’s all a lot simpler and a lot better than that. Millennial sales reps might be the best hires you can make!

Millennials Are More Stable than Gen X

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Millennials have an undeserved reputation for flightiness. They’re job-hopping - and they won’t stop. Why, oh why? Actually, far from flitting from job to job, they’re far more stable than Gen X were at the same age - more likely to have been with their current employer for longer. Data from FiveThirtyEight shows that the ‘millennials are job hoppers’ myth comes from comparing today’s 25-year-olds with today’s 35-40-year olds.

Unsurprisingly, the younger people have been in their jobs less time and switch jobs more. But when Gen X were 25 they moved around more, not less. If you’re hiring younger sales reps, they’re more likely to stick around than their older counterparts.

Millennials Are Looking for Fulfillment

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Millennials are looking for fulfilling jobs. They want to be a part of something. That’s more important to them than earning more money - and it’s more important to them than the stereotypes of going home a 3 or having a ‘games room’ in the office. So Gen Yers who don’t like your product or respect what your business stands for? You won’t meet them: 72% of them won’t even apply.

But that’s good: Those that do often have far more belief in your brand and your product than previous generations, and they get that they’re not just trying to close a deal now; they’re advocating for your brand identity.

Millennials Have More Traditional Requirements from Management Than You Might Think (And They’re Not Needy)

So the myth is, millennials are into hanging out with the boss. They want a constant stream of ‘great jobs,’ high fives and backslapping. The biggest myth that ties into millennial entitlement is that they all want  medals for showing up, raised in the belief that the whole team should get a trophy. That’s not just wide of the mark - it’s the opposite of true. Millennials are keener on personal responsibility and accountability than any previous generation, especially Generation X.

They don’t even value the chance to make a contribution to planning all that highly. A fair boss who’s transparent about how things get done is far more important to them than someone who rewards (their) individual efforts.

Millennials Are More Decisive Than Gen Xers

Again, it’s myth vs. reality. Gen Y are portrayed as indecisive and prone to groupthink: before they make a call, they have to, you know, make a call, and send a text, and IM everyone they know and ask the world what you guys think. The truth is nothing like that. Generation Y are actually more decisive than Generation X, and much better at taking individual responsibility.

When sales reps need to own the call and put their mark on the client relationship, the last person you want to hire is a vacillating, characterless wimp. And of course, there are some in every catch, but Gen Y is stronger at owning roles confidently than previous generations.

Millennials Are Digital Natives

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Millennials adopt new tech twice as fast as other age groups. Younger Gen Yers literally can’t remember the world without broadband internet. When they talk about the comically outdated tech they grew up with, they mean MySpace. That puts them in a  great place to leverage that new technology in the workplace for performance gains. If you’re considering introducing workplace tech like Slack, or you have a powerful, integrated CRM that handles everything you do, millennials get it - and they might even already know how to use it.

Even if they don’t they understand the transformative power of technology as a given not something they need to be convinced of or grudgingly led through. It also makes them well-placed to explain in detail just what’s so great about your product or service. They’re comfortable doing their own research, going far beyond the FAQ sheet.

Millennials are Entrepreneurial

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That’s actually an oversimplification. According to Pew Research Center, there’s a divide within the millennial age group between older Gen Yers who came of age in the pre-crash years and those who entered the jobs market during the Great Recession. Older millennials place greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and are more likely to want to run their own business, while younger Gen Yers rate job stability higher and are less keen to go it alone.

What they all have in common, though, is a commitment to business success and a work ethic that outpaces Generation X’s slacker attitudes. The big difference is that Gen X were resentful of structures imposed from above, while Gen Y wants to change them. They want to work - just not necessarily 9-5. That’s good news in a sales world that rewards focused communication with prospects and leads in windows that might not be 9-5 either.

They Think Selling is a Science

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Millennials couldn’t be further from Glengarry Glen Ross. They don’t believe in gut feelings or hunches. And if they say the leads are weak, they’ll have the charts to prove it. What they do believe in is data science, and they understand the need for data-backed selling. So when they go to sell for you, they’re prepared to take their lead from the data and do what needs to be done to hit the figures. But…

They’re unclear about pay

Millennials are often unclear about pay. Up to 30% of them are uncertain how their own performance-related pay schedules are structured. That’s bad news if you’re relying on quotas and commissions - which you are, right? So how do you get that clarity so millennial reps understand what they’re working for? Older workers might find absorbing information from text easier.

Consider whipping up an infographic demonstrating how your commission scheme works, which would suit more visually-oriented millennial workers better. 

and...

They’re Keen on Informality

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For Generation X, the besuited man of affairs who strode like Don Draper down the corridors of the American business world, tie neatly pinned, shoes shined, gave way to shirtsleeves and slacks as Bill Gates and other techies came out from the basement and took over the building - and the economy. Who do millennials look up to? The current generation of business icons doesn’t even own a tie, let alone a tie pin. Steve Jobs is regarded as a formal dresser because he wore a black polo neck.

That attitude carries over to personal relationships. Millennials are keener than any generation before them to avoid giving offense. They just don’t think being informal is rude.  

Conclusion

Millennials aren’t the wishy-washy, image-obsessed adult children of lazy stereotypes. They’re business oriented, they understand the power and importance of branding and they’re acutely sensitive to the tone and attitude of communications. Add up work ethic, tech savvy and decisiveness and it might just be worth explaining your pay structure one more time. In fact, Gen Y might be the best sales reps you’ll ever hire!

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