For boomers and Generation X, it’s hard to believe that millennials aren’t kids anymore. It seems like yesterday when the internet was full of jokes about millennials, but the truth is, the generation born between 1981 and 1996 has grown up and now represent 35 percent of the workforce, the largest percentage of any generation. As many sales leaders already know, because of the unique times in which millennials were raised, they often possess characteristics needed to succeed in sales. Here are a few of the traits that help make millennials successful sales professionals.
- Technical Prowess
One of the constant things other generations praise about millennials is how they’re tech savvy. As the first generation to come of age in the digital world, millennials were raised on computers. In ways that amaze older peers, millennials will experiment with tech once best left to trained engineers, so they won’t hesitate to undo, reconfigure, and upgrade tech solutions. Much of their schooling also featured computers, through interactive videos, how-to guides, etc. In many ways, their tech skills are second nature, an advantage for today’s sales professional.
- Fluent in Social Media
Ironically, a generation criticized as introverted and socially awkward grew up with social media. With many millennials, it can seem an event, a quote, a meal, even, is not official until it is shared online. To the boomer generation, millennials seem to speak a bizarre language of hashtags and emojis to communicate with friends. Sales managers should remember their clients also employ millennials. With the rise of social selling, millennials are not just fluent in in social; they invented the language: #Sales.
- Used to Teamwork
In contrast to Generation X, whose education was often individualized and isolated even within a classroom setting, millennials’ schooling featured group work. From grade school through college, many classes promoted participation in small groups, so millennials entered the workforce ready to collaborate. In fact, not only were they trained to work well with others, they are also equally outspoken and unafraid to voice their opinions, even amongst older, more experienced professionals, so they can provide fresh perspectives.
- Expert at Multitasking
Though the word first appeared in the 1960s in relation to early computers, millennials were raised to be multitaskers. Whereas Generation X kids were told to get out the house, play Jacks on the freeway, or get lost in the woods, millennials not only navigated multiple computer applications, such as playing games, maintaining chats, and scanning social media, they were also encouraged to balance school with extracurricular actives, including softball, little league, lacrosse, soccer, drama club, etc. As such, they are often perfectly at home multitasking.
- Thrive in Structure
As a result of their proficiency with teamwork and multitasking, many millennials thrive in structured environments. For some, this sense of organization ties into the concept of “helicopter parenting,” which first applied to Gen X parents who hovered over (some say smothered) their millennial children, paying close attention to all aspects of their lives, from school to extracurricular and online activities. While this was born out of an increasingly threatening online world, many millennials are attracted to the structure of a sales process or sales management strategy.
- Crave Leadership
No doubt a byproduct of involved parenting and a structured environment, millennials often crave leadership and seek out role models. This was certainly influenced by ‘90’s-era schooling where educational models stressed teachers who were more understanding of diversity and provided additional encouragement, becoming less of a subject-matter specialist and more counselor. As such, many millennials respond favorably to the idea of sales coaching and training and seek managers who are nurturing, motivating, and inspiring.
- Value Culture and Work Environment
In addition, sales managers should remember that, in the ‘90s, many corporations, influenced by the tech startups of the ‘70s and ‘80s, switched their organizational styles to stress “culture” and “environment.” The buttoned up, hyper-rigid formal business structure of the ‘60s and ‘70s gave way to entrepreneurs in t-shirts and jeans who played foosball and catered sushi until all hours of the night. This became the ideal for many millennials who want to feel part of something bigger than themselves, like a revolutionary endeavor or “the next big thing.”
In retrospect, it’s easy to see how much the world changed during the millennials’ formative years. At the time, while boomers were consumed with work and Gen X was brooding over new wave music and John Hughes movies, it turned out computers were more than a fad. Now that they are adults, many of the characteristics millennials developed provide a distinct advantage in sales, especially with the rise of both social and virtual selling, and the ever-changing sales environment.