The first full day of XANT’s Accelerate ’17 event dug deep into a subject vexing senior sales executives worldwide; namely, how to adapt to the vastly different world views and work styles typical of the Millennial generation. Inside sales operations are particularly affected by this demographic shift, as newly minted college graduates are disproportionately opting for entry-level sales positions with B2B software companies.
Sale forces comprised of 100% millennial aged reps are not uncommon.
XANT CEO Dave Elkington kicked off the day with a keynote address in which he related an experience that would go on to shift the direction of his company. He explained how in 2015 it was discovered that utilization rates of one of his company’s products saw an alarming decline within one client organization. Some investigation revealed that the client’s entirely Millennial sales force preferred not using technology that didn’t fit their unique work style and expectation of predictive optimization. This encounter sparked much more investigation which in turn resulted in Elkington’s decision to completely revamp XANT’s flagship product to better accommodate Millennial users.
Subsequent sessions yielded more and more evidence of the tectonic generational shift the rise of the Millennials have brought to inside sales operations everywhere.
Sharon Kitzman, VP at DealerTrack said that in her experience, one of the fundamental criticisms of Millennials is unfounded.
“[Millennials] are not lazy,” Kitzman said. “They just want to work differently.”
She explained that DealerTrack has an internal focus group of sorts called Millennial Voices, which meets monthly to make recommendations on how existing systems can be altered or replaced to better serve the cohort.
Kitzman said that eventually all manner of services will have to evolve to meet the unique demands of Millennials. She gave the example of daycare, which for decades has operated strictly from 7am to 6pm, in parallel with the traditional 8 to 5 work day. This system is unworkable in a world where Millennials often prefer working wherever and whenever it suits them, Kitzman said.
Jon Belcher, VP as Juniper Networks, said his organization has learned to permit its millennial employees a high degree of mobility within the organization.
“Movement is important to Millennials,” Belcher said. “If we don’t move them around, they’ll move themselves right out of the company.”
Belcher further said Juniper Networks, like many organizations, is struggling to find an internal communication method that Millennials will reliably use, since they famously reject email.
Belcher added that while Millennials are known for distrust of complex hierarchies, they none the less respond favorably to sales leaderboards and other tools that clearly demonstrate how reps measure up relative to their peers.
Craig Parrish is a VP at Intel Security. He says that being raised in a world full of certificates of participation has left Millennials craving a true sense of accomplishment and recognition for superior performance.
Parrish suggested that a greater investment of time at the outset of the sales team hiring process can help weed out those Millennials who fit the stereotype of being lazy or entitled. He suggested working with local universities offering undergrads access to programs focused on sales training. He said this is a good way to find a self-selected group of motivated, sales career-oriented recruits.
Later in the day, the topic shifted to one of choosing the best sales technologies, but even then speakers could scarcely avoid the topic of Millennials. This is consistent with a statistic offered earlier by Elkington, who cited a study by Dell and Intel finding that 80% of millennials weigh workplace technology in their job choices, and 40% will quit a job when the technology they use seems deficient or fails to keep pace.
Deron Frye, SVP at PGi, said that the only way to make sales technology investment is to get the feedback of employees – Millennials in particular – on the front end long before making a decision.
“Let them feel heard,” Frye said.
Jeff Skousen, VP at Domo, said that the criticism of Millennials as believing themselves smarter than their tenured superiors can be all too true, and this tendency manifest itself when younger sales reps insisted that they should be allowed to contact whichever lead they felt best.
“We decided to let them call whoever they wanted,” Skousen said. “Their productivity immediately dropped.”
Skousen explained that, finally convinced and hurting from the precipitous drop in commissions compensation, his Millennial reps consented to adopt XANT’s predictive selling tools, which very effectively identify a sales rep’s best next move. The result was unambiguous.
“Productivity immediately shot up,” Skousen said. “And of course all the reps are entirely on board because they’re back to making money.”
Accelerate ’17 attendees have two more days of learning, collaboration and even skiing to look forward to, in addition to a much anticipated concert by Collective Soul.