Managing a multi-generational sales floor isn’t easy to begin with, but many of the sales leaders we work with tell us that the younger reps – those classified as Millennial or Generation Y – might be the most distinct of those they work with on a regular basis.
Of course, it’s difficult to generalize characteristics to everybody in a common age group, but the sales leaders who have most successfully driven productivity and results from their younger sales floor have followed these best practices and guidelines.
1. Plan on giving them more of your time than the older reps
Most older sales reps like to be given their marching orders and left alone. They’ll come find you when they need you. Younger reps need more attention. They want to be checked in on more regularly, and will likely ask for more of your 1:1 time to talk through frustrations, ideas, challenges, etc. This may mean over time that your traditional manager-to-rep ratios need to shrink a bit.
2. Reward more with experiences than things
Research across age groups has shown that younger adults value experiences (trips, lunches and other non-tangible benefits) vs. physical prizes. This is especially important to keep in mind when planning sales floor contests and incentive programs.
3. Play to their ego (within reason)
Plan on more frequently praising them for their efforts. Don’t go overboard, and don’t create a monster, but find opportunities to regularly encourage them based on their activity, pipeline production and closed business. Celebrate their successes big and small, with them individually and as a group.
4. Create a fun, expressive environment
Encourage your younger reps to customize their cubicles, consider the occasional themed dress-up day, and other sales floor elements that let your reps express themselves. There’s a fine line between allowing this to impact productivity positively and negatively, but it’s something that could mean the difference between high and low rep turnover as well.
5. Be strict about hours
With flexibility in other areas, you can be strict about a handful of things and hours should be one of them. Clearly allow reps to come in early and stay late, but make it clear when you expect them to arrive each day, and when the work day ends. Exceptions can always be made for doctor appointments and the like, but clear work hours help employ a level of discipline and expectations in between the other, more flexible elements.
6. Find trusted, older mentors who can help them (and you)
Although there may be a generation gap, your older reps (especially those who are successful month after month) have a lot to teach the new reps. Find those willing to take others under their wing, formally or informally. This will also take some of the pressure off your managers and distribute coaching opportunities to other qualified people on the floor.
7. Don’t restrict social site access
Your reps will just spend more time finding ways around it, and it’s a sign that you don’t trust them. If you have a rep you don’t trust, you probably shouldn’t have them working for you anyway. And further, the opportunity to engage prospective customers across social sites is enormous and growing.
8. Hire for characteristics, train for sales skills
Younger reps, by definition, aren’t going to have a lot of sales experience. And the sales process and/or methodology you use is likely going to be new to them anyway. Look instead for reps who share your values, and who have the baseline characteristics to be successful salespeople.
Curious to hear what others have learned and done to manage younger sales reps in your organization.