Looking to bring some millennial blood to your sales team — or keep your current roster of millennial salespeople engaged and productive? Then Carmela Krantz, vice president of talent and human resources at sales engagement platform ClearSlide, has some valuable information for you.
Krantz was kind enough to share with us her top five tips for attracting and retaining millennial talent on your sales team, which we present below. Just a quick heads-up before we do that: Krantz notes that many of these tips can be applied to other departments (not just sales) and other generations (not just millennials). She also notes that the tips are in no particular order — they’re not so much a process as a group of useful tools that employers can leverage in whatever ways work best for them.
Now, without further ado: Five Tips on Attracting Millennial Talent to Your Sales Team:
1. Make Sure Your Team Has Access to the Most Modern Tools
Millennials have grown up with technology. As Recruiter.com contributor Rony Zarom notes, millennials fall under the umbrella of “Generation Connected,” or Gen. C, thanks to their strong relationships with digital devices.
It should come as no surprise, then, that millennials want tools that will help them “work smarter,” in Krantz’s words. In everything from hardware to software, from the computers on their desks to the programs they use to track their performances and manage prospects, millennials want to be working on the cutting edge.
“If your reps don’t feel like they have tools and opportunities to succeed, they’re not going to stay,” Krantz says. “There are so many choices in this environment, and that’s especially true for millennials. They have a lot of opportunities and other places to go.”
2. Mobility Matters
As a side-effect of growing up with technology, millennials also see work as fluid and flexible, accomplishable anywhere, anytime — provided one has the right technological tools.
“This whole notion of working on the go, answering emails while they are commuting or at a ball game, is how people are working and how millennials have grown up,” Krantz says. “The idea that you must be sitting at your desk with your headset on to do your work is a thing of the past.”
Krantz also notes that millennials are used to switching fluidly between media channels and multiple devices. As a result, they increasingly expect that employers will provide them with the freedom to not only work on the go, but to perform their work on whichever devices they most enjoy, be that laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Providing a “freedom of devices” not only creates happier and more engaged employees. According to Krantz, it also creates more responsive — and therefore higher performing – salespeople.
“[Many of today's] buyers are digital natives also, so there’s an expectation on the buyer’s side about how the sales side will interact with them,” Krantz says. If a company’s salespeople can’t interact with buyers via the channels those buyers prefer, then the company will surely lose not only talent, but also valuable customers.
3. Embrace Social, Both Internally and Externally
Externally, companies need to maintain powerful, positive presences on websites, blogs, and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Maintaining a strong social presence on the Web allows employees to more easily share content about a company with their own social networks. In other words: if a company’s social presence sucks, employees will be hesitant to spread the company’s content; if a company’s social presence is exciting and appealing, employees will be proud to share the company’s content.
Getting employees to share content via social is important from a marketing standpoint. According to Krantz, millennials “trust their peers tremendously. They values these connections … and online communication. They tend to believe their communities provide more accurate and timely information [than] slick sales-and-marketing-produced websites.”
A strong social presence gives companies an easier and more authentic way to communicate with buyers, who are more likely to trust content shared by their valued connections than content shared from a company with a clear sales agenda.
Internally speaking, Krantz says an employer’s social efforts should go beyond simply providing employees with internal social media platforms to communicate with one another. A company must take the extra step of helping employees — millennial employees especially — build strong social connections and community relationships within the organization.
“Millennials are not defining themselves by their work, like generations of the past,” Krantz says. “Millennials are defining themselves by a work-life balance, philanthropy, and community involvement. They have a much stronger focus on what the company stands for, what the company affiliates with, and how the company supports them in spending their time.”
This is why ClearSlide’s new hires participate in a community service project together during their first week of training. Such a shared experience fosters relationships between the new hires and demonstrates the company’s commitment to being a good community citizen.
4. Provide Peer Learning, Training and Development Opportunities, and Clear Career Paths
They’re also eager to advance through the ranks. Many millennials have strong career goals, and they want to meet them as quickly as possible. They’ll put in the work, but they want to know that the work they put in will, in fact, help them climb career ladders.
“You definitely have to have ways for them to grow their careers, or they’ll move on,” Krantz says. “They want to know when and how they are going to advance. They want a path to more responsibility, more money, and a bigger title — and they want it fast.”
Krantz says the millennials’ desires for “more” in their careers places a burden on companies: employers of millennials need to create clear career paths for millennials, and they need to provide millennial employees with the training and experience they need in order to advance.
But millennials are a different sort of learner, Krantz says. Millennials are more experiential. They don’t want to sit in classrooms for days at a time. They want to learn while on the job.
“If you threw a sales manual in front of the millennial, they’d be likely to throw it back,” Krantz jokes. “They’d rather learn from leading sales reps.”
Krantz says it is important for employers to offer millennials peer-learning experiences by partnering them up with the best, most successful people in the office.
“Find groups and individuals within the organization who have skills that your newer employees don’t have, and pair them up so they can learn while they are on the floor,” Krantz says.
5. Implement Operating Principles That Speak to the Values of Millennials
Millennials value companies with purpose, companies that have socially conscious missions, companies that aim to improve the world in some way. Employers that want to entice millennials should demonstrate their commitments to their communities by getting involved with nonprofits, philanthropic activities, fundraisers, and the like.
Krantz says that ClearSlide often solicits ideas from its employees, listening to their social concerns and choosing to sponsor the charities and events that employees feel passionate about.
Employers also need to implement operating principles that speak to the more functional values of millennials, who often desire flexible work schedules, the ability to telecommute, and great work-life balances.
“It’s really about flexibility and embracing the notion of a work-life balance,” Krantz says. “Millennials are really holding companies accountable to be responsive to their needs. They’re not identifying work as their primary life missions, so we have to support their other life missions.”