What sounds as ominous as a Game of Thrones catchphrase or foreboding as a Brad Pitt Zombie reboot might be a blessing for corporations that will soon be forced to navigate a new set of rules to prime the next generation for the sales roles of those on the road to retirement.
By our research, the oldest members of Generation Z are 18 years old (born in 2001 or after). Their story is yet to be fully written, but societal norms have shifted so significantly in the past 5 to 10 years that their impact on this next generation will likely be significant. From Washington’s partisan politicking and Hollywood’s #MeToo Movement to the power of social influencers, Generation Z exquisitely balances the need to be unique with that of being highly empathetic. Vulnerability is becoming a badge of honor, and authenticity seems to trump all else. Let’s take a deeper look to better understand how these influences are molding the next generation of highly empathetic sellers and thought leaders.
Spoiler alert – there is a lot more good than bad!
Their uniqueness creates intense levels of empathy…
Gen Z is so self-aware that their uniqueness is reclassifying the very gender roles they use to define themselves. Nowhere was this more evident than what I experienced while flipping through a recent post by The New York Times, which catalogued 900 voices from members of Gen Z. They are loud and proud of who they are, yet their uniqueness seems to create a sense of disenfranchisement, which forces them to continuously and consciously contemplate the attitudes, opinions, and preferences of others.
Technology provides a platform to garner power and loyal followers…
While Millennials struggled to realize the professional ramifications of an embarrassing picture or post on Facebook, Gen Z carefully curates their social brands as they seek to gain influence over loyal followers. They are taking notes as young entrepreneurs garner immense power on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Kylie Jenner, CEO of Kylie Cosmetics, is worth $1B. She isn’t Harvard-educated like Mark Zuckerberg, but she is 100% authentic to herself and her brand, something her 177 million social media followers crave daily.
“When they think about spreading their message, they imagine contributing to an online community in a meaningful way — not blasting out clever slogans and hoping people will buy what they’re selling.” — Forbes, Deep Patel
Having something to say (or sell) is one thing, but figuring out how to get someone to listen (and buy) is another skill entirely. This generation, unlike any that have come before, is mastering how to influence others online.
Generation Z is ready. Are we?
With every new client, we come across a handful of very experienced sellers who, over their careers, have acquired certain skills that set them apart. These skills range from being able to quickly read a room, diagnose body language and sense subtle changes in one’s tone of voice to appreciating generational idiosyncrasies and adjusting to certain thinking preferences. They can pinpoint personal and professional motivations to create constructive tension and are capable of naturally building trust and rapport in order to gain influence and motivate action.
It almost seems counterintuitive that Gen Z, 41% of whom value working wi-fi over working bathrooms1, would be able to debunk the longstanding notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master something, yet they are already demonstrating the skills held by the most seasoned sellers. Thanks to their Gen X parents, who pushed screen time limits and instilled realistic expectations of what it takes to succeed, their deep appreciation for the differences in others and their innate ability to reach and influence them is just the tip of the iceberg. Pair that with the fact that 74% will prefer to communicate face-to-face with colleagues1, and I’m bullish on their ability to (with guidance) be extremely successful sellers - both online AND in person.
It will be up to us to ensure that this next generation is set up for success. Their inherent abilities must be appreciated and optimized as they assimilate into corporate cultures that will feel foreign at first. You may think you have time, but with top tech firms dropping college requirements for employment, this next generation may be joining the scene sooner than you think.
While we monitor the maturation of Generation Z, we must start thinking about the implications for recruitment, learning & development, enterprise technology, as well as sales. In the coming weeks, we will explore some of these topics in more detail.
In the meantime, click here to download our Generational Pocket Guide to learn more about the three dominant generations operating in today’s workplace: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials.
1 Inc.com, Generation Z Versus Millennials: The 8 Differences You Need to Know, by Ryan Jenkins.