Don’t click on this article if you want to party a while longer with your Millennial-bashing troop. As for me, I’m tired of it. For some time now, we’ve been awash in “Why Millennials Suck” or “How Millennials are Killing Sales” headlines, and the truth is: Millennials don’t suck, and they’re not killing sales.
In fact, if the industry wants to become truly effective again, it’s high time we stopped trashing Millennials and embrace their many strengths. To get us started, here are four lies we love to tell about Millennials–and why these qualities are actually gifts to the profession.
Millennials are Impatient
It’s actually true that most people from the Millennial generation do not like to sit around and do nothing. They grew up in an age of one-tap instant gratification: Online games that award “achievements” every five minutes, online dating with “swipe right and swipe left” matches, and social media providing quick hits of dopamine for every “like” and “retweet.”
They want results, and they want them now.
Is this always a bad thing? In the sales profession, fast results are sometimes exactly what we should be striving for. And Millennials are just the people to prompt us to get them, especially when it comes to technology.
When a young Millennial, having used slick, optimized apps like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter all their lives, enters the workforce and discovers that their employer is using some gosh-awful software like traditional CRM packages from large corporations… they’re going to get a little impatient.
And that’s a good thing. We shouldn’t accept software that isn’t optimized for our purposes. We shouldn’t accept time wasted creating “work-arounds” for the flaws in our technology. We should expect that our software works quickly, efficiently, effectively, and that it empowers us to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
Millennials Don’t Respect Authority
Remember when Gen X came along and insisted on using first names, regardless of social standing? Now here’s the Millennial generation, and they want to really chum it up, calling everyone “bro” and expecting that anyone up to and including the CEO should listen to and respect their ideas. Right?
Sure, some Millennials come into the workforce cocky and thinking they know everything, and that’s not healthy for their growth. But every generation has its share of cocky ones.
What Millennials bring that’s different is a general expectation that their contributions are valuable and that they will have the opportunity to influence decisions. Raised by parents who taught them that even children get a say in family decisions, this stereotypical Millennial attitude can rub some bosses the wrong way.
But in my experience, what lies under the Millennial “cock-sureness” is a genuine and abiding desire to make the world a better place. And the truth is, Millennials do bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the digital world that most members of the older generations simply don’t. Smart sales departments will embrace the Millennial desire to make a difference by listening to their ideas and their complaints, and letting the Millennial knowledge of the digital world inform their approach to sales process.
They Don’t Know How to Do Basic Things
This one is also sometimes told as, “They need their hands held all the time.” Well, and… if it’s true, then whose fault is that? Ours. If the next generation doesn’t know what they need to know, it’s our fault for not teaching them.
The truth is, sales education has been failing in the U.S. and all over the world for more than a generation. While nearly every major university has a large and thriving marketing department, where are the sales departments? Where is the academic research devoted to improving the profession? It’s practically non-existent.
So if Millennials come into the sales force with a lack of basic skills, who can blame them?
On the flip side, in my experience, while many Millennials come into the profession with few sales skills, they also come in with a willingness to learn that is extraordinary when it is harnessed well. Top performing organizations harness this willingness by putting knowledge transfer systems in place that capture the best practices of their top performers, and guide and direct new hires and young salespeople in developing those skills and behaviors.
Millennials Are Lazy
Of the four myths, this is the one I have found to be farthest from the truth. Millennials are entering the world of entrepreneurship in larger numbers than any previous generation, showing that they’re not afraid to take a chance and work hard. They enter the workforce eager to prove themselves and to make a difference in the world.
I think where the reputation for laziness comes is that, in general, Millennials have no patience for pointless work. And in many cases, if they don’t see the point, they simply won’t do it.
For those of us who worked our way up doing “busywork” “for the experience,” this can seem spoiled and childish. But in all seriousness, in a world of automation, why should any human being do busywork? Why not make every moment of every day count? Why not know that what you’re doing really matters?
Sales teams can harness this passion for making a difference by ensuring that they communicate the “why” of the work clearly at every point. And they can use the Millennial reluctance to perform “busywork” to examine their systems and eliminate pointless activities. Further, some Millennial workers can be employed to identify pointless work and design automation systems to take it off the hands of people whose talents can be better used elsewhere.
The truth is, every generation has certain general characteristics, but every individual is different. Hire good people whose values match your organization’s and who are willing to learn your processes. Institute good processes and supportive systems. Give your sales teams the tools to succeed. And embrace the individual gifts each person and each generational group brings to the workplace. That is how you build a world class sales team.
Not by trashing Millennials.