Will Millennials take your job when you're done with it, or when they're done with you?
I'm neither fear-mongering nor Millennial-bashing: my goal is to put you in control of the answer.
Millennials Aren't Coming. They're Here.
According to a study by PwC, Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020. By then, they'll have about 10 years' experience. When you had 10 years of experience, weren't you eyeing leadership roles?
And They Reflect Today's World, Not Yesterday's
Millennials have never known a world without the Internet. Facts, numbers, and definitions sit in their back pockets. Their entire adult lives have been a click away from a car pick up, a grocery delivery, a movie recommendation, or a hook up with friends, with or without benefits.
An Example from Selling
Raised on Google and Wikipedia, Millennials are used to selling themselves: in job interviews, on dating apps and Facebook profiles. So it’s no surprise that many have started their careers in sales, but the sales force they know looks very different from when you and I started out.
Smart Millennials have never done a truly cold call. Sure, your inside sales reps and sales development reps (SDRs) call people they don't know. But these aren’t the really blind cold calls we used to do, starting with only a company name, hoping to find someone who cares and trying to build a relationship.
If you think your Millennial salespeople sound lazy, it's likely because your recommendations — and your sales process — seem insanely inefficient to them. They will never embrace the old "gut and golf" approach to selling. They believe data should inform their gut. And golf takes five hours that they’d rather spend with friends.
So What Changes?
For Millennials, it's all about time. And for the rest of us, it's about time we respect that obsession. It’s especially clear in Millennials’ attitude toward data. (They won’t always describe it that way, but after this discussion, you’ll see how fundamental it is.)
So what do Millennials expect?
- Data collection should be automated.
- Results should be visual and easy to understand in a glance.
- The system should be prescriptive, also known as “smart” or just “not stupid.” If Netflix can tell us what to watch next, the sales system should analyze the history of won, lost and current deals to suggest optimal next steps.
We don’t need to convince current sales leaders to use more data to get more insights sooner. Almost every older-than-millennial sales executive already wants to add more science to the art of selling. And they want results yesterday. The issue is changing their expectations on the approach.
There are two massive shifts in how leaders need to think about using data:
- Manual data entry changes to automated data collection.
- Forms and database-driven systems (ERP, CRM, supply chain, HR) change to smart systems that automate workflows and “think for you,” offering timely insight and recommendations.
So will Millennials take your job when you're done with it, or when they’re done with you? The answer is not to maintain your leadership position by ignoring the habits of your new Millennial employees. It's to use data-driven tactics to build on what you already knew to be true:
- People buy from people, so relationships matter.
- If your sales process doesn't fit the buyer's journey, you're going to lose.
- Insight about reps, customers, and deals is power.
Are you and your team leaders committed to understanding your business, deal progress, and team performance without shackling reps with days of non-productive data entry and reporting? All this thinking is not just to make Millennials happy. It’s to grow your company, drive more revenue, and give company leaders unprecedented control and insight into our business. We're just getting good ideas from a new generation. And your competitors — Millennials or not — are adopting these approaches. If you can’t keep up now, it will only get harder.
Oh, and I’d like to thank the Millennial salespeople who reviewed this post.