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Millennials Demand Leadership: The Two Non-Negotiables

Motivating salespeople has always been one of sales management’s primary roles and one most managers felt competent to tackle until the Millennials hit the scene. Many leaders are finding traditional sales management tactics don’t engage this younger generation or inspire the desired effort or outcomes. This leaves management puzzled and unsure of how to motivate Millennials. Fortunately, all that’s required are the basic fundamentals of great sales leadership.

Make it all about them!


Millennials are driven to do meaningful work and make an impact. This dictates managers no longer simply set sales activity and result goals, inspect performance, and implement an incentive program. It’s a big misstep to assume Millennials will correctly answer 1) “Why is what you are asking me to do important or of significance?” and 2) “What is in it for me to do what you ask?” Without addressing these questions on an ongoing basis, the commitment you want won’t happen or be sustained. Leaders know it’s their job to effectively and regularly:

  • Answer “WHY”: Millennials want to be a part of something significant, so explain how what they are expected to do is important to customers, prospects, and the company. Help them visualize their impact and remind them regularly.
  • Show the Payoff: Know what the Millennial cares about and show them how the expectation helps them get what they want. Be careful to not assume what they care most about is money and don’t rely too heavily on an incentive program to be the motivator. More so than previous generations, this one is far more motivated by intangibles such as significance, recognition, and career advancement.
  • Reinforce Their Value: Millennials have a high need for encouragement and endorsement. This requires a high frequency of check-ins or touching base, specifically pointing out and recognizing the Millennials’ contribution.

Always Add Value


Millennials are eager to learn, grow, and progress quickly. While this is an asset, this group is easily frustrated if they perceive themselves to be in an environment that doesn’t enable fast advancement. Managers who are hands off, only about the numbers, or use a one size fits all approach will quickly find themselves with retention and performance issues. Millennials expect management to be directly involved in helping achieve their goals. Leaders understand this presumption and prioritize their time and interactions to meet this demand in simple yet high-impact ways:

  • Demonstrate Commitment: Millennials expect big things – quickly – from themselves. Their expectations are missed when organizations don’t appear to have a plan for their development. Leaders must take ownership of this perception and ensure Millennials know the personalized plan for them and how their leader will participate.
  • Provide Frequent Meaningful Feedback: Given Millennials crave interaction and want to move forward, feedback that gives them insight into what they are doing that’s working and suggestions on how they can improve is appreciated and well received.
  • Leverage Development Opportunities: Millennials are open to how they are developed – as long as they get developed! Managers tend to miss, ignore, and/or be too busy to take advantage of many of the opportunities available for on-the-job development. Leaders seek and embrace all situations that can provide a learning experience for their people. This is best exemplified by how they treat pre-call planning, joint calling, and post-call debrief not as a managerial mandate but as a high-impact, big payoff opportunity to do development. Leaders also understand Millennials like environments that are collaborative, creative, dynamic, and fun. Finding ways to make sales meetings engaging learning experiences is always on the radar as is encouraging partnering and mentoring relationships.

Millennials simply want a very engaged leader focused on helping them succeed now! Although this appears challenging, what leaders need to do truly isn’t that different from what is done with Gen X-ers or Baby Boomers. You still need to have one-on-ones, do pre-call plans, go on joint calls, do post-call debriefs, and have check-ins – what’s different is the frequency, purpose, and outcome of all your interactions. And remember, the focus is all about them…and you had better be adding meaningful value that helps them get where they want to go at the pace they want to get there!

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