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Multigenerational Sales Coaching: Myths, Truths, and Key Considerations When Coaching Millennials

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Modern sales leaders and managers are often faced with the challenge of providing multigenerational sales coaching. Providing sales coaching to millennials might seem like a particularly challenging endeavour - this is because there are many myths about the preferences of the millennial workforce that are not true.

Understanding how to connect with your millennial salespeople can help you learn how to coach top performers.

MYTH #1: Millennials do not want to be coached

Not true. In fact, recent studies show that millennials want coaching at work nearly 50% more often than other employees. Also, they seek feedback more frequently than older generations in the workforce (SuccessFactors, 2015).

MYTH #2: Taking a quantitative approach with your coaching feedback dehumanises the coaching relationship

Using a numerical rating scale, either against a standard or against a millennial’s colleagues, helps contextualise feedback and provides an opportunity to monitor progress. It’s likely that higher performers will embrace an internal ranking against their colleagues, while a moderate or lower performer may be better served with a comparison against an external standard. The ranking or comparison is not for punishment, but for growth. It can help you establish a common language and calibrate change consistently. Be mindful of your choice.

Key considerations for Multigenerational Sales Coaching

Consider that connecting with millennial employees frequently resonates with their cadence for information and their digital world. Millennials are accustomed to instant access to information they seek, and that builds an expectation for feedback to be in real time. By definition, real-time feedback cannot be staged or overly structured. A more casual approach suits millennials better than having an annual, formal “sit down.” Connecting with Millennials offers a chance to establish and build rapport, but it must be done as a partner, not a boss. Millennials tend to embrace collegiality and collaboration. Be visible, present, approachable, and avoid having all of your discussions in your territory. Be present in their spaces. Show up in their neighbourhoods. Leverage technology platforms like Google Hangouts or Skype for face-to-face communication with geographically distributed employees. The old models, where the manager “teaches” the subordinate, is incompatible with millennials’ perspectives on power and authority. As an immediate supervisor, becoming a “learning partner” with feedback to share is a more influential lever.

The success of the Bernie Sanders campaign in mobilising millennial supporters is a testament to the fact that millennials are inspired by causes, not companies. Articulating and helping millennial workers discover their higher purpose or a meaningful vision of their part within the enterprise will engage them and hold their attention and help you in your efforts to train a multigenerational sales team. In support of that higher purpose are explicit expectations around employees’ contributions to the larger cause. Organisations are successful when they harness the collective drive of their workforce and align that drive with a singular vision and clarity of values. Helping millennial employees understand what they have to do to produce the desired outcomes frames and helps them navigate their work environment.

“Gotcha” coaching (catching people doing something wrong) evokes fear and avoidance. Instead, focus on millennials’ strengths (catching people doing something right) to build confidence that mastery is achievable, and thus, engage and inspire. Your job as coach is about unlocking potential, not teaching. Liberate millennials by helping them discover their potential. Avoid exclusively focusing feedback on specific work tasks or products. Rather, explore their views of their futures, in terms of career paths and options. Encourage millennials to step out of their specific work roles and reveal their personal drivers and motivators. Don’t artificially constrain their thinking by using only career maps or structure of your organisation. Remember, their loyalty and inspirations come from that “higher cause.” Pursuing that might be more viable outside of your organisation, and that’s OK. The bond you are cultivating is between you and the millennial, not you and your company. If they trust that you have their best interests at heart, you will have their engagement while they are with you. I’d take that any day over a long-term, tangentially engaged employee.

Discovering millennials’ inner motivators and career aspirations means that, as coach, you must listen, ask questions, and listen more. While it may seem counter-intuitive, because you are the coach with all the knowledge and wisdom, if you do most of the talking, millennial employees will be checking out because it’s about you, not them.

Truths About Coaching Millennials

You give millennial workers more with coaching when you:

    • Model behaviours for success
    • Focus on outcomes
    • Continually cultivate relationships
    • Establish and articulate a vision
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