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You need to know the millennials: a new generation of B2B sales talent

The sales talent market will be different 10 years from now. To remain competitive, sales leaders need to overcome many future challenges. A fundamental one is known as the sales generational shift. By 2025, the millennial generation is expected to account for 75% of the global workforce.

Tomorrow’s B2B salespeople: millennials

We are at the verge of a paradigm shift. A shift that implies a demographic change in the global talent market. This is a change expected to impact all corporate functions including sales organizations. A massive amount of leaders that belong to the baby boomer generation are soon going to retire. A recent Swedish survey, estimated that as much as 48 leaders will retire on a daily basis during the next 10 years. On the other hand, a younger generation – millennials – will continue to enter and establish themselves in the B2B marketplace.

As a result, millennials will make up almost 75% of the global talent market by 2025. If the estimate is accurate, it is logical to expect a need to shift gears and re-think current sales talent management practices. Perhaps you have already thought about the consequences and wonder: 1) how many of those 48 leaders currently hold sales and marketing related positions 2) how to apply a systematic process to attract millennials into your sales force and 3) how to motivate, steer and manage their sales performance. If you do not yet have a strategy to handle the rise of the millennials, a first step – aside from acknowledging the issue- is to understand them.


The challenge in understanding millennials is the fact that they are different than baby boomers and generation X. Aside from the obvious age difference, they differ in fundamental aspects such as values, attitudes and career expectations. How are they different? In “Generations in the workplace: winning the generational game”, the writer presents an American survey that focused on the main differences across the three generations. While millennials were perceived as being less team oriented and less hard working than other generations, they were viewed as highly entrepreneurial. Furthermore, the study indicates that millennials were the most difficult generation to work with. This perception is a direct result of millennial’s tendency to focus on their own personal and professional development. But, what implications can the results have on B2B sales organizations when cross-functional collaboration is more important than ever?

trappaWork: a mean to achieve personal development

From a global perspective, Kairos Future’s latest study confirmed that millennials value personal development the most. Because of their struggle to integrate in the labor market, it is no surprise that 42% said that landing a job was one of their top future dreams. However, the meaning they attributed to work is worth further thinking. Contrary to baby boomers, millennials do not have the ambition to climb the corporate ladder and achieve power or status. Instead, they view their jobs as a way to achieve personal development and individual satisfaction. Their interest in personal development is so deep rooted that 70% would rather work independently if traditional businesses do not offer that opportunity, according to Millennial (Generation Y) Survey.

These findings have implications for sales leaders. It means they must adopt a different leadership and management approach. But before worrying about leadership skills and performance management strategies, sales leaders need to understand what influences millennials’ choice of employer. Are high entry-level salaries an effective method to attract millennials? Or are millennials interested in being challenged and making an impact to society?

ALLOW personal development to attract millennials

Specific research into what influences their choice of employer shed light on an emerging trend. The trend is an increasing emphasis on “soft values”, such as: a friendly work environment and the ability to combine personal interest with work. Further evidence from a poll showed that Nordic students valued a challenging job and the ability to make an impact the most. In general, studies point towards the fact that millennials are motivated by different factors than previous generations. An organization that fulfills their need to make an impact, allows them to combine work with personal interest and provides room for personal development, will have no problem attracting millennials.

Millennials expect transparent and objective performance management

Now that you know how to attract millennieals, you should focus on how to retain them. Do you know what millennials expect from their bosses? When millennials were asked about the characteristics of a good boss, the answered: fair (35%) and encouraging (24%). Interestingly, attributes such as inspirational, creative and passionate were not as important. This means sales leaders must find a transparent and objective method to steer and reward their sales performance.

ProSales research revealed that successful sales organizations influenced performance by steering behaviors rather than outcomes. Consequently, to successfully influence sales performance you need to systematically measure the behaviors and activities of millennials . Can you develop a set of behavioral KPIs that are perceived as fair and transparent? Do you have the knowledge, capabilities and tools to meet the demands of tomorrow’s salespeople. In an interesting article “The 3 Job Aspects That Will Attract and Keep Millennials at Your Company”  the writer advices organizations that want to attract and retain millennials to do the following:

3 TIPS to RETAIN AND ATTRACT the future sales force

1. Cultivate an engaging workplace

Find out what workplace activities can increase engagement. Do millennials appreciate flexibility, constant feedback or one-to-one meetings?. Once you know what they value the most, make sure to cultivate and build an engaging working environment.

2.Give their jobs a purpose

Always try to show them how their individual efforts contribute to the overall organizational goals. Furthermore, when possible, do your best to find a way to connect their activities with a good cause. In this way, millennials will be able to combine work with their need to contribute to society and make an impact.

3. Empower salespeople to give back to society

If members of your sales team want to volunteer or donate, why not give them the opportunity to do it? Provide room for volunteering and similar engagements when possible.


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