Retain Sales Reps From Generation Y

by Shannon F.

It has always been tough to find and retain great salespeople, but Gen Y is notoriously hard to hold onto. That’s a loss for you, because this generation has a lot of passion and innovation to bring to your sales department. If you are considering hiring from the latest batch of college graduates entering the job market, you could find the most loyal employee of your career OR one of the most challenging. Either way, handling young talent means knowing how to turn potentially problematic traits into wins for both you and your new hire.

Trait #1 – Gen Y is impatient. Raised with instant knowledge and entertainment at their fingertips, Gen Y likes to jump right in, see results at lightning speed, and progress quickly in their careers – perhaps before you think they’re ready. Your new Gen Y salesperson may be unwilling to sit through hours of training, because she grew up learning by doing. Nobody taught her how to create complex Sims cities or start her own vlog – she just jumped in and did it. It’s no surprise she wants her career to work the same way.

Make it a win for you Your Gen Y salesperson wants to prove himself, so let him. Instead of sticking him in days of seminars before he hits the selling floor, try a few call simulations where he has to think on his feet with very little time to process information. This will force your salesperson to rise to the occasion, and the two of you will be able to identify areas where he needs coaching.

If he has to learn the ins and outs of a new product, just give it to him and let him play around with it, then allow time for questions. He’ll probably teach himself a lot more effectively than you could with PowerPoint slides and handouts. Finally, let Gen Y shadow a successful salesperson for just long enough that he learns the ropes and is excited to get started.

Trait #2 – Gen Y thrives on praise and support. Financial rewards are great too, but not enough to keep your 20-something salesperson happy for the long-term. She wants to know that you value her and are happy with her work. Regular feedback is the best way to keep her engaged. But to some managers, this seems needy: “When I was a young salesperson, I didn’t expect trophies just for showing up to work on time. I was happy when my boss didn’t scream at me in front of my coworkers.”

Make it a win for you – Your Gen Y salesperson wants a job that’s more than just a job. He’ll achieve more in an environment where he feels like he is making an impact. So let him know he’s doing well, and he’ll do twice as good a job next time. Craving recognition is not just a Gen Y thing, so make it a point to celebrate when your sales department achieves both individual and team goals. Have contests and incentives. Most importantly, schedule time for your salespeople to talk to you openly if they have a problem or challenge, if they are falling short of their goals, or if they want to share some good news with you. It may feel like coddling, but you’ll start to like both the warm fuzziness and the results that it achieves.

Trait #3 – Gen Y expects a lot. Your new hire knows that Google has a giant sliding board in the middle of their office, and she has a friend whose workplace stocks the kitchen with free snacks. Not only does she like the idea of these fun extras, but she thinks she definitely should have three weeks paid vacation by now – she’s been here a full six months! Her expectations make you mad, because you had to work hard to get where you are, and Gen Y thinks she is entitled to perks right away.

Make it a win for you It’s not so unreasonable that Gen Y salespeople hold their employers to high standards – but make sure you let them know that perks don’t come free. If you are clear upfront about when your new hire can expect vacation, flex time, and raises, he has something to work towards instead of feeling bitter about what he doesn’t have. When your new hire’s prospects with your company are cloudy and he doesn’t know when rewards, benefits, and career development opportunities are coming, if at all, he’s less likely to stick around.

And don’t overlook the free or inexpensive ways to make your company an enticing place to work. Whether it’s a company-wide softball game, silly contests and team-building exercises, or walking meetings, put some effort into developing the kind of company culture Gen Y-ers will brag about to their friends.

Trait #4 – Gen Y is outspoken. Every generation thinks they invented manners, and in a way, they did. When your Gen Y salesperson doesn’t show proper deference, that’s not because she’s rude, but because she was brought up believing everyone should be treated the same way. When she is blunt or opinionated, it’s because she was encouraged to express herself freely. Brutal honesty and strong opinions can be valuable characteristics, but customers may not always think so.

Make it a win for you – When your sales team is willing to speak up in a constructive way about what they believe, that makes your job as manager easier. After all, turning your team’s passionate opinions into viable solutions keeps your company innovative. But when it comes to customers, coach your Gen Y salesperson on how to conduct open-minded selling conversations. Encourage him to spend more time listening than talking, and to avoid bombarding the prospect with too much information. Forgetting to listen first and offer selective information afterwards is a common Millennial mistake, but it’s a lesson everyone can take to heart.

Trait #5 – Gen Y likes change. Young salespeople often get the reputation of being job-hoppers. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are disloyal, just that they are hoping to better themselves, have new experiences, and find their ideal position, where they might stay on for a decade or more if they’re happy. But if you’ve had a lot of Gen Y-ers jump ship after only a year or so of working for you, you may feel like you wasted your time training them.

Make it a win for you Retaining a young and restless salesperson is a good exercise in keeping the whole department from becoming stagnant. Everyone gets motivated by initiatives, incentive programs, and the opportunity to learn new skills. Productivity tends to spike when there is an exciting new challenge or when salespeople feel freshly equipped to perform their jobs.

Another key part of retaining your Gen Y salesperson is to let her see that she has a future at your company. Do you promote from within? Is there room for growth if she keeps working hard?  If her prospects seem bright, she’s likely to stick around and see what happens.

If you are hoping to make a new hire, rejuvenate your sales practices, or motivate your team to achieve long-term success, let us know! We are happy to offer customers the training and support they need to help bring team members up to speed with our InsightPRM sales program. We offer free on-boarding for all new users. Contact us today.


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