In the mid-1990s, Marty Enns, then a sales rep, sat in his office surrounded by binders full of prospect and customer data. The majority of his working hours were spent keeping these binders updated, which kept him from what he loved to do the most: engaging with potential customers.
One day in an effort to work more efficiently, Enns brought in his Gateway computer (remember those?) to ease the process of constantly updating his binders. Unfortunately, computers were against company policy (yes, seriously!).
Fast forward (ahmm) 20 years and Enns now heads the fast and furious commercial sales team at Clari. He couldn't imagine running his book of business without technology, but neither can his team members.
Today, technology is an expectation in the workplace, especially for the new wave of salespeople entering the B2B workforce. The oldest of Generation Z (or Gen Z), born from 1997 and onward, are now in their early 20’s as fresh graduates and kicking off their careers. By the way, by 2030, they are expected to make up over 30% of the workforce.
This is a big deal for revenue leaders. “Hiring is one of the most important parts of my job and critical to our success as a sales team, but it’s a knife fight out there — a full out war for top talent,” Enns says. “Any competitive advantage you can have is critical.”
Understanding what drives this cohort and considering their work preferences is a good first step to not only attract this new generation of top talent, but also to successfully manage, retain and empower them once they’re a part of the team.
We’re sharing three tips to do just that:
1) Meet Their Tech Expectations
Gen Z has a life that’s almost never offline. Described as true digital natives, their unique trait is their constant connectivity from the start of their childhood. They were practically born into the “iPhone age”.
With little to no learning curve for tech, cutting-edge software and devices are an expectation in the workplace. “This generation has grown up with technology. They’re able to interchange between devices in a way that makes them more efficient — and they expect that,” Enns says. “Arming this new generation with the tools to drive those efficiency expectations is critical.”
In a recent study, 53% of Gen Z respondents said the technological sophistication in the workplace is an important part of their decision making process when considering job offers. For sales teams, this means the latest sales tech is no longer just a nice-to-have for attracting top talent.
Tools that make reps’ jobs more connected, efficient, and predictable can sweeten the deal for applicants. And if you aren’t catering to those expectations, you may find yourself out of the running for applicants.
“Unless you equip the new generation with the right tools and tech, they’re not going to be as successful as they potentially can be,” Enns says. “They’re going to find outdated processes frustrating and it will definitely wear on how they feel about the company.”
Some 65% of Gen Z negatively responded to “antiquated” work processes like spreadsheets, which means the old school way of rolling up a forecast or manually entering data into a CRM will not work for them.
“Having the latest technology or automaton tools available allows me to work on the skills and tasks that are really important to me and the business, instead of spending a lot of calories on manual day-to-day processes,” says Vivianna Vu, a Sales Development Representative at Clari and a Gen Zer. “They allow me to multiply my output tenfold. Having previously worked at a company without the right tools, it’s definitely not as enjoyable. I really can’t see myself working at a company that doesn’t have the technology we have.”
2. Mentor Instead of (Micro-) Manage
Despite their gravitation towards technology, Gen Zers still crave human connection, an important point for managers to consider. One poll showed that they want their leaders to be actively involved in their professional development, while 72% preferred regular feedback to be given through face-to-face interactions rather than over the digital airwaves.
“I want my managers to be transparent with me and deliver straightforward, constructive criticism,” Vu says. “They have to be open to guiding me and not just throw me something to do”
As managers, this is an important distinction to make.
“You can have all the emojis in the world, but it’s really hard to communicate tone and give complete, qualitative feedback if you’re not sitting down with your people,” says Kyle Coleman, Sales Development and Enablement Director at Clari.
“The human interaction is really important to make sure reps know that you’re there to help and not to knock them down,” he continues. “It’s a downward, vicious cycle when they feel they aren’t doing the job well and managers are unable to find a way to support them or figure out what has gone wrong.”
Scheduling consistent, in-person 1:1 meetings that focus on desired personalized coaching instead of turning into an interrogation will keep this generation learning and growing, and thus engaged and loyal.
“Before Clari, I’d ask my reps the same information over and over and over again,” Enns says. “I’d be interrogating you and that would make you defensive and we’d get into an argument. Now I hardly ever have to call to ask how a deal is going. I can just see it and we can spend those 1:1s working on strategy.”
Managers are expected to be more like coaches and mentors than just simply a supervisor. And for those ad hoc check ins outside of 1:1s, using real-time communication channels, like Slack, is one way to play to their technological comfort zone and provide feedback in a pinch to these digital natives.
Being able to ask questions and get answers in an instant is beneficial for time on both ends.
“This generation is used to keeping things moving quickly, so they have an appetite for getting answers on a much shorter timeframe and expect information to be at their fingertips at all times,” Coleman says. “It’s a tough balance to strike between in-person and electronic forms of communication, but creating an effective strategy with a combination of both is so important for their success.”
3. Feed Their Competitive Nature (With Data)
While Millennials have been characterized as collaborative, Gen Zers have been said to have a competitive nature. They’re also achievement-oriented.
One potential reason: Gen Z has had access to online grading portals scores to immediately check on their academic performance and are familiar with social media platforms that provide engagement metrics, such as Likes and Followers, is a norm to them. There’s also a level of gratification to this instant feedback.
“A lot of people we are hiring have been high achieving people their whole lives and used to challenges. However, they’re not necessarily used to failures,” Coleman says. “We celebrate failure as a rite of passage on the sales team and foster a growth mindset.”
To empower the Gen Z sales rep, sales activity data can provide them with a snapshot of their activities leading up to a closed deal so they can track their progress in real time. Seeing the number of prospect emails, calls or meetings made throughout a week or month compared to their peers on a universal leaderboard can provide additional motivation for that extra ounce of productivity.
“As someone who is still learning the ropes of sales, seeing metrics gives me insight to what the most successful people are in the team are doing,” Vu says. “Comparing my numbers really drives me to get to their level.”
Furthermore, hard data enables managers to identify clear, measurable goals for the reps to hit and reward any successes.
“This generation is much more likely to set metrics-driven goals and hit them,” Coleman says. “In sales, you can’t always control your results, but we can set goals that will help them focus on the things they can control, like emails to prospects or meetings set. Getting them to spend time on that is a way to make them feel more powerful.”
What's Next for Gen Z?
Gen Z already has characteristics that are well-positioned to become high-performing sales professionals, such as their competitiveness and natural ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment. Equip them with tools, data and relevant coaching and they’ll be off to the races impacting the entire revenue operations team.
“If I can go work someplace where my job is 20 times easier and has the tools to help me get there, I’m going to make more money and generally overall be a happier salesperson,” Enns says. “That translates to higher retention rates for your sales team and better overall sales effectiveness.”
Each Gen Zer will have their own unique traits and preferences, but understanding these themes can help sales leaders hire, coach and retain this new generation of soon-to-be sales rockstars.
To see how Clari can help your sales reps be more productive and increase your team efficiency, schedule a demo.