10 Things You Should Know About Gen Y Salespeople And 4 Of Their Most Common Mistakes

It seems like every week there is a new article about Millennial/Gen Y workers.  But when I read these articles, I always wonder if the information given also holds true for Gen Y SALESPEOPLE?  I set out to find any current research I could on Gen Y salespeople (those born approximately 1980-1999).  It turns out there have been several studies done.  What follows is a summary of the most interesting aspects of the various studies and research.  Be ready to be surprised because a lot of it is different from what we’ve been hearing about how to manage Gen Y.  It’s time to separate fact from fiction when it comes to Gen Y salespeople and how to manage them.

“The Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for adults, and love to talk rather than work or exercise… They contradict their parents, chatter in front of company, gobble down their food at the table, and intimidate their teachers.”

Who made that astute pronouncement?  Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.)!   As the quote from Socrates demonstrates, every generation thinks the younger generation has it too easy and is obnoxious.  And, that holds true for the older three generations currently in the workforce with Gen Y.  It is probably felt more intently because Gen Y workers now make up the largest segment of workers and are growing. Workforce Generations

As you read through this information it’s important to keep in mind that even though this is research done on Gen Y salespeople, it’s still generalized.  Not every Gen Y salesperson is of course the same.  You need to take into account the type of industry you are in, the type of sales, and the individual’s sales talents as well.  This information is just a starting point.  The best way to know which of this applies to your Gen Y salespeople?  Ask them! 

FACT 1:  The Number 1 Motivator For Gen Y Salespeople Is Money:  This one surprised me.  Yes, I know that for most salespeople this is a primary motivator, but I didn’t think it would overwhelmingly be number one for Gen Y.  There are so many articles about how Gen Y wants to make a difference in their work and are willing to work for less money if it is a company they believe in, yada, yada, yada.  Well, guess what?  That didn’t even make the top 5 among Gen Y Salespeople.  Gen Y salespeople are motivated by money and access to good managers.

Gen Y Salespeople Motivators

FACT 2:  Gen Y Salespeople Are Mouthy Expressive.  Keep in mind that GenY has grown up on the web.  A research study done by Vorsight & The Bridge Group, Inc., on Gen Y salespeople calls it the “democratization of voice on the web.”   It means they have always been able to express any opinion they have to just about anyone they want, through the internet.  If you have an idea, you can float it out there to all your friends, as well as strangers, and see if spreads; if it has merit.  Gen Y salespeople have taken this same expression into the workplace.  What feels disrespectful or exasperating to Gen Y and Boomer managers, seems natural to them.  That is, to express how you feel about something you are asked to do, or to have an idea put out there for evaluation by others rather than just being told “no” by their manager.  If you are managing Gen Y salespeople you need to be willing to listen to their opinions and feedback – even when unsolicited – and be prepared to discuss.  This is why many refer to this generation as Generation WHY rather than Generation Y!

FACT 3:  Gen Y Salespeople Crave Recognition.  Most salespeople enjoy recognition in some form.  After all, it is this ego drive that helps propel them to achieve.  The difference is that research on Gen Y salespeople shows that they need it a lot more often.  Constant feedback is critical to their success or failure.  And, they want it now.  In a 2012 research study by Achievers and Experience Inc, 80% of Gen Y said they prefer on-the-spot recognition over formal reviews, and feel that this is imperative for their growth and understanding of a job.

Gen Y On The Spot Recognition

FACT 4:  Gen Y Salespeople Will Not Typically Leave A Job Just For More Money.  Gen Y overall has been described as “job jumpers.”  So, it would stand to reason that money motivated Gen Y salespeople would probably be even more like this.  Actually, the research shows that isn’t the case.  Most would prefer to stay with their current company IF there is a clear career path where they can continue to develop marketable skills and grow their income.  In other words, if you show them that they can accomplish their work ambitions with your company, they would like that.  If you can’t, they will jump.  And really, weren’t you the same way when you were in your 20s?  Why would you stay in a position if you feel there are no growth opportunities?  Growth doesn’t necessarily mean management either.  It means learning new skills, additional training, financial growth, etc.

Reasons Gen Y Salespeople Leave

FACT 5:  Gen Y Salespeople Are Impatient But They Are Not Lazy.  Yes, they are constantly looking for the next big thing and need to be kept challenged.  They tend to work fast, and work on the go.  So while managers say Gen Y salespeople aren’t willing to put in long hours, according to a  research study by Sibson Consulting; it also found that in actuality, they are more willing to do work in off hours than other generations, but  on their own terms.  They just aren’t sitting at the office doing it.

Gen Y And Long Hours

FACT 6:  Gen Y Salespeople Are Goal Oriented.  This may explain then, why the same research study found that those managers also said that 92% of their Gen Y salespeople met their goals as well or better than salespeople of different generations.    What this seems to tell us is that while Gen Y salespeople may not want to be at the office until 7pm or come in early, somehow they are getting the work done, and done well.

Gen Y Salespeople Goal Attainment

FACT 7:  Gen Y Salespeople Need Different Training.  Gen Y salespeople say that they feel the other generations move too slow.  They hate going through training with older salespeople because they believe the others are holding them back.  They are used to doing things online and quickly.  Remember this is a group that grew up playing video games.  They tend to learn by doing (experiential learners) rather than being lectured.  They need training that is interactive and allows them to experience what is being taught.

FACT 8:  Gen Y Salespeople Want More Coaching And Mentoring.  When Gen Y salespeople were asked what would help them be more successful, this was the number one answer.  This is a generation that is used to having hands-on guidance from parents and teachers.  They look to managers to be their mentors and provide insight and feedback.  Veteran salespeople can be called upon to mentor as well.  And by the way, they are on to something when it comes to mentoring.  A research study done on this topic found that 35% of salespeople who do NOT receive mentoring look for another job within 12 months.

Gen Y Salespeople Success Question

FACT 9:  Gen Y Salespeople Like Contests & Competitions.  One of the common things you read about Gen Y is that they aren’t competitive because they are the “trophy generation” where everyone gets a prize just for participating.  We read that they are group oriented (which is true) and that they prefer team goals to individual competition.  But this is where Gen Y salespeople differ.  They like having individual goals, and they want to know how their goals tie-in to the bigger picture of the company.  Gen Y salespeople are competitive and like contests, with 86% responding to a survey that they participate.  This is especially true when they get to have input on what the reward will be.

Gen Y Salespeople Competitive

Just what are the rewards that Gen Y salespeople like the most overall?  They want cold hard cash, career development opportunities, and trips. (Study by Dr. David Brookmire)

Gen Sales Top Rewards

FACT 10:  Gen Y Salespeople Don’t Respond Well To “Command and Control” Management.   The “command and control” management style works through extrinsic motivators such as threats, dictates, and a manager who is a “commander” instead of a “coach.”  That is not how Gen Y was raised and not what they experienced in school and college.  This style of management stunts Gen Y salespeople because it inhibits their intrinsic motivation, which is the desire to feel ownership of their work and to feel good helping their clients and achieving goals.  Gen Y salespeople work hard when they feel important and appreciated which is called the “psychological pay” principle.  A “command and control” management style takes that feeling away from them.

The last piece information I’ll end with is from an article on Inc.com about the most common mistakes a Gen Y salesperson makes.

Four Mistakes Gen Y Salespeople Make

1.  Giving The Prospective Client Too Much Information At Once.  This is a common mistake – where the salesperson just throws up information all over the client.  Because Gen Y is so good at collecting information – especially about their product, they go overboard and inundate the client with more data than most could ever want.  Teaching a Gen Y salesperson to edit is a valuable use of your coaching time.

2.  Not Having Information About The Client’s Company.  Interestingly though, they tend to not do enough due diligence on the prospective client’s product or services.  They need to be focused more on learning about the client and less on presenting why their company’s products are the best.

3.  Not Showing Proper Deference To The Client.  This issue relates to style as much as anything else.  Gen Y salespeople can come across as cocky little know-it-alls to prospective clients.  Instead of telling a client what they should be doing, they need to be more consultative and ask questions.  They also need to remember that the client knows more about his or her business than the salesperson does, and show respect for that knowledge.

4.  Not Having A Clear Expectation And Goal For The Meeting.  Too many times a Gen Y salesperson will go into a client meeting and not have a clear idea of what he or she wants to accomplish in that meeting.  They need to decide what the end result goal of the meeting is to be, so that they can properly evaluate if it was a success.  Simply presenting an idea and ending with an “I’ll get back with you next week,” isn’t a clear goal.  An expectation of a “next step” at the very least, should be a goal for each meeting.

“What I hear, I forget.  What I see, I remember.  What I do, I understand.”  - Confucius

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About the author

Leslye Schumacher is a Talent Analyst and Management Consultant. Her company, TalentQ Consulting, works with companies to help them find, hire, coach, and retain talented people. She is a passionate advocate and industry expert on managing to people's individual talents to develop their full potential. Leslye writes on topics including recruitment and social media, interviewing best practices, strength management, talent assessment, Gen Y/Millennial issues, employee engagement and retention. She has been featured as a subject matter expert and writer for many publications including Recruiter.com, Profiles International, CEO Blog Nation, Rescue A CEO, Zip Recruiter, and Business News Daily. Her company website is www.TalentQConsulting.com

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