You’ve Got Millennials All Wrong

As far as I have been able to discern, the composition of sales forces hasn’t really changed all that much. For all the bad press the Millennial generation suffers, I’m having a tough time understanding how they’re different when it comes to the deep stuff of sales and success.

There is a still a top 20 percent of every sales force, a 20 percent at the bottom, and the 60 percent that lies between the two poles. Some of that top 20 percent is made up of experienced, mature salespeople, and some of it is made up of folks from later generations, including the Millennials. The same is true for the rest of the bell curve, including the bottom 20 percent.

Some people in sales roles have fast rapport skills, are gregarious by nature, and make selling look easy. There are plenty of confident Millennials who have no trouble creating new relationships. There are also people of every generation who are introverts and take a little more time to warm-up, which reminds me of a joke: “You know how you can tell an engineer is an extrovert? They look at your shoes when they’re talking to you.” I’ve seen research that suggests that ambiverts produce the best results in sales, but I’ve seen both introverts and extroverts succeed. Millennials look a lot like the rest of us when it comes building relationships, some easy and familiar, some a little more awkward.

One of the more difficult deficiencies to coach in a salesperson is an aversion to conflict and difficult conversations. Being too deferential, or too fearful, eliminates the possibility of being a peer, and it is likely that person ends up being an order taker. That said, some people have a terrible time with conflict, some embrace it and use collaboration to defuse it, and some people relish a good fight, being sometimes too argumentative, and sometimes too combative. Millennials, as far as I can tell, seem to be spread across this spectrum, just like everyone else.

Every generation is somewhat of a mystery to the generations that came before them. Eventually, they trade their version of idealism for the pragmatism that allows them to work, to support themselves, to take of their family, and to have whatever kind of life they want, most of which will look a lot like the lives of the generations before them.

Millennials are going to be just fine. Remember the Baby Boomers grew up growing their hair, involved in all forms of shenanigans, and protesting against “the man.” Now they are “the man.”

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