How to Coach the Millennials on Your Sales Team

How to Coach the Millennials on Your Sales Team

Many seasoned sales managers today are facing a common challenge: how to lead, motivate, and inspire young Millennials on their sales teams. This generation, which will make up roughly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2020 and 75 percent of the workforce in 2030, has already garnered a reputation for being difficult to manage by traditional standards. Yet, the sheer size of this demographic segment is forcing organizations and sales managers to rethink their management style.

Just like the generations that came before them, Millennials’ attitudes toward work and life have been shaped by a number of cultural factors. Because this generation was raised by doting helicopter parents, they are used to receiving attention and validation on a regular basis. They are also the first generation to have grown up with Internet accessibility at their fingertips, which explains their desire for instant gratification. These two factors have greatly impacted the way this generation views the workplace and the kind of relationship they want with their managers.

Unlike generations prior, Millennials want to see their managers as coaches and mentors and admire experience and knowledge over position and power. But how can you effectively coach your Millennial salespeople? First, it’s important to understand what it takes to be a great coach.

What makes a great coach

Coaching isn’t a trait that comes naturally to everyone. It isn’t an intuitive skill, nor is it inevitably acquired while learning to manage. But it is a necessary skill to learn when managing Millennials in the workplace. Keep these points in mind when taking the coaching approach with your young salespeople.

  • Great coaches are focused on winning and results but understand that there is no one way or method to achieve it. They know each game is different and will require a different strategy.
  • Great coaches observe and study players to learn the strengths of each team member. They also know they need an array of talent to make a strong team.
  • Great coaches give players one-on-one attention. They don’t just hand them a manual with the expectation that players will learn the plays. Instead, they teach players the plays through ongoing training and practice.

How can you be a great coach to your Millennials?

The Millennial Compass Report, which surveyed 1,293 employees in the U.S., India, China, the U.K., France and Brazil shows that Millennials are “focused on achieving through personal networks and technology; having good work-life balance; and getting high levels of support from their managers.” Understanding what this generation values will allow you to create an effective coaching strategy for the Millennials on your sales team. Follow these steps to help you become a better coach to your Millennial salespeople.

Provide feedback in real time.

Millennial salespeople have high expectations for their sales managers but they also set very high expectations for themselves. If they don’t hear feedback in an on-going fashion, they may assume they are doing something wrong. Remember, they have been raised with continuous feedback from parents. Thus, they have the desire to know exactly how they are doing at all times. Provide real time feedback (both positive and negative) to the Millennials on your sales team whenever you have the chance.

Discuss personal career goals.

Millennials want managers to help them carve out their career paths. They want to see where their careers are going and what they need to do in order to get there. Make it a priority to set aside time to discuss these personal goals with your younger team members.

Sales team having a discussion
A sales team having a discussion in a conference room.

Offer on-the-job training.

Millennial salespeople are very action-oriented and prefer observed learning. In other words, they want to do it rather than just read about it. So, if your training program only consists of sitting in a room and listening to lecturer, you’ll want to include interactive exercises and role play situations to effectively teach your Millennial salespeople.

Promote collaboration

Millennials are used to working in teams and groups. In contrast to the lone ranger attitude of earlier generations, Millennials often believe a team can accomplish better results. Leverage Millennials’ bias to work in networked teams by creating a highly collaborative team environment with peer mentors, group brainstorming, and cross-training opportunities.

The best way to effectively coach your Millennial salespeople is to truly understand what motivates them. Take the time to learn more about their expectations, motivations, and career aspirations, and you’ll be on your way to building a winning team of young salespeople.

What have you learned from coaching Millennials on your sales team? How are they different from other generations of salespeople? Let us know with a comment below.