They call it a generation gap. But in the world of sales leadership, we call it a whole LOT of meaningless confusion, frankly speaking. Working with millennials can be a tricky affair if you have worked with 60-year olds all your life.
While baby boomers still laugh about the Brady Bunch and MASH, Gen Z’s and millennials watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix and on their smartphones. While some love talking politics and about the 1930s crash, others are going gaga over the Kardashians.
The issue is that you, as a millennial sales manager, cannot speak the same language as them. While everyone is fundamentally the same (a human with the same core needs), how you handle individuals needs to differ.
The question here is— “how would you manage a millennial?”
Here are 3 top pointers to help you handle a millennial sales team.
1. Find things you have in common, but respect the difference.
The key here is to adapt a smart and flexible approach according to the subject in question. Simply speaking, to them as they want to be done unto. While baby boomers might seek a more serious, structured and face-to-face mentoring session, the millennial might be happy with a chunk of real-time feedback now and then, and it can be over WhatsApp as well. While both groups seek effective and timely supervision, the way they need to be tackled might be according to their generational differences.
2. Render a casual working atmosphere.
Baby boomers were raised to look at the office as a place of work; millennials are always up for fun. Offices are where they work, play and work again. At times, they may go to the canteen and relax over a peanut butter-banana shake! The idea is to create a casual and playful atmosphere for them. Especially if you need them to put in long hours, it’s imperative that you provide adequate facilities for occasional “mind refreshment.” Maybe they update the sales spreadsheet in the first hours, then head to the game room to try their hand at PlayStation tennis, followed by cold-calling clients. Don’t try to restrict them to the 9-5 regimen; they have a different work ethic, and maintaining structure in a remote working environment can itself be a challenge. As their immediate boss, you should focus on the results – and not so much on the process!
3. Keep up with their fast-paced lifestyle.
Yes, we are living in a highly dynamic world where information moves fast and actions even faster. The good thing is millennials have been born to adapt well to these times. They are absorbing real-time information every time they open their social media. They have a habit of sharing and updating each other on their latest findings, whether it’s entertaining, useful or important. While baby boomers may prefer the morning paper and printed books from libraries, millennials are more into tablet readers and blogs. In other words, it can be safely said that while millennials may appear to some as a fun-loving, uncommitted bunch of hippies, they are even more sophisticated than baby boomers and Gen X’s have ever been. They have to be on top of everything and be in the know. Leading millennials requires you to keep pace with them, if not get ahead of them. Information overload is their pastime, so act accordingly.
Working with millennials can be a challenge, even more so for the sales leader who is a baby boomer or from Gen X.
There will be a disparity of opinions, and the way you function in the workplace will probably differ too. Even the language you use and the workplace culture you’re part of might be completely alien to each other. (Tough, isn’t it?)
However, it all comes down to empathy and making the effort to understand one another. If the millennials in your group have what you consider to be unreasonable demands to be promoted after a short period of time, or they appear to show a general defiance of your supervisory role, instead of reacting confrontationally take a moment to find out the real reason behind the behavior. It could be just a break of routine that they are looking for.
Who knows – you might discover the “best salesperson of the year” in one of these millennials. Numberwise, the odds are always in their favor.