Sales Best Practices
Millennials in Sales: Making Sales Careers Work for the Snapchat Generation
Millennials get a bad rap. We’re “lazy,” “entitled,” and so irresponsible with money that we’d rather indulge in avocado toast than save responsibly (sorry, but can you instagram a 401k?). What we’re most known for around the workplace, though, is being notoriously choosy when it comes to what we expect from our employers. But when we invest so much time in our careers, we want to ensure we’re investing it wisely.
I’ll let you in on a little secret - what we’re looking for really isn’t that crazy! We just want to do meaningful, self-directed work with intelligent people, and drink unlimited amounts of free artisanal cold brew. When you do win us over, you’ll find millennials can be some of the most creative, enthusiastic problem-solvers you’ve ever had on your payroll.
Since most of the millennials you want to hire converse solely in listicles, I’m sharing a list of seven things companies can do to retain this valuable, diverse group of employees.
1. Provide a flexible work environment
At some point, millennials got labeled as lazy. (This Time magazine article from 2013 was one of the first big salvos in this campaign. Thanks, guys.) It’s a hard rep to shake, and requests for flexible hours don’t necessarily help. But, thanks to smartphones, we’re never not working - even when we dip out early on a Tuesday to wait in line for 3 hours for some food craze you’ve never heard of. We have your back when we take calls from bed at 5am and answer “URGENT!!!!” emails while we’re on vacation. You can trust us to work from home every so often, especially in a field sales role that can increasingly be done from anywhere in the world with a good wifi connection.
2. Let us try, fail, and learn
Bring a millennial onto your sales team, and you’ll get a uniquely creative addition. To keep us engaged in the world of sales, give millennials a forward-thinking, modern sales environment that allows us to try new ideas. I’m sure the way you’re doing things is great, but what if I could find something that might drive more SALs while lowering costs? That’s how your top millennial sales reps are thinking, and those are the challenges that keep us excited to wake up and come to work. Don’t stifle that creativity!
3. Speak our language
For a generation that prizes sincerity, corporate-speak and vague buzzwords are not a good match. No, that doesn’t mean your reps want to write all of their outbound emails entirely in emojis (though if you challenged a millennial to do so, I’m sure it could be done). Instead, this means we want you to be honest and upfront with us. Millennials are suspicious of grandstanding language. Tell us in plain terms what you care about and why, so we can work towards the same goals you are.
4. Emphasize the human element
In our ever-connected world, millennials are increasingly obsessed with building digital relationships. That makes us perfect for the world of sales, which is all about relating to and connecting with complete strangers. As a sales manager, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and how you can get just one more SAL this month, but don’t forget the human element of sales. Raised as digital schmoozers, millennials are a great addition to your team to remind everyone that, yes, there is an actual person on the other line, and they’re worth getting to know. When your team invests in getting to know your customers as people, your business results will speak for themselves.
5. Give us the tools we need
Think: Technology. It’s not that millennials are reluctant to work hard. What we are reluctant to do is work inefficiently. This generation prizes working smart over spending long hours in the office doggedly completing manual tasks that could easily be automated. We came of age alongside wifi, the early iterations of smartphones, and other disruptive technologies that have put a priority on efficiency. So if you want us to feel excited at work, make it easy for us to do our jobs with tools and technology that let us invest our time more strategically.
Need a cheat sheet? One of our millennial customers made you a starter guide to the sales tools that will help you and your team of ambitious millennials stay ahead of the competition.
6. Help us grow
When millennials invest time in helping you grow your company, we have a sneaky ulterior motive - our own growth and professional development! We are a highly ambitious bunch, and our unfair rep for “job hopping”, is mostly due to our insatiable need to grow our careers. Don’t want your millennials to have a two-year exit plan? Provide a clear growth plan for your top performers, including opportunities for management, so we know our hard work will be rewarded. Invest in your younger reps by offering mentorship programs and continuing education opportunities. Even a day off to attend a local sales conference or an online class can pay for itself many times over in helping your team grow their skills and keeping them happy.
7. Pause for a cause
Millennials are driven by more than a bottom line. We want to work towards a bigger, better mission. Corporate responsibility is huge - we’re motivated by companies working to change the world, and with policies encouraging employees to donate their time and money to philanthropic causes. One of my favorite moments at Outreach was when we all came together to raise thousands of dollars for children with cancer, all while wearing our PJs to work!
Bonus: Never let us run out of avocado toast.