It is difficult to keep up with the latest generational trends, especially for sales leaders trying to drive performance while also balancing the needs of those they lead and serve. In fact, many sales leaders express how complicated it is to prioritize and implement any sort of business or culture change that they think will get the best return on their time, money, and effort.
My colleague, Kelsey, recently broke the bad news that Generation Z – yes, people born after 2001 – will soon be another key consideration for sales organizations. If you haven’t been paying attention to how generational differences are impacting your sales team, then you’re already late to the game. So, what’s our recommendation? Instead of just catching up on Millennials (which you can do here), this blog explores the critical places to focus in order to prepare for Generation Z that will also positively benefit Millennials along the way.1. Leadership: Consistent and Authentic Communication
“Efforts to improve perceptions of company leadership will likely have a bigger positive impact on engagement than other engagement drivers.”1 Sales people want to know what, why, and how decisions are made and who these decisions will impact, especially when it involves their ability to be successful. Great leader communication starts at the top of the organization and cascades to the frontline with little to no dilution of the message. Organizations must consistently plan the way to share messages about the direction of the company, including a focus on change management when making any strategic shifts like reorganizations, technology implementations, new processes, or changes in performance metrics.
*Gen Z & Leadership Communication*
All generations care about great leader communication, but think about the many ways we receive communications today… There is no shortage of information coming through a variety of channels, such as TV, radio, email, websites, social media, and podcasts. We obtain information from wherever and whenever we want it.
Now, contrast that with an organization where information is held close to the chest. It will be devastating to a GenZer to not be able to get the information they need in a consistent or authentic manner. More than any other generation, Gen Z will want to be “in the know” on all things impacting their world. While this may sound simple, there are few companies that have truly nailed great organizational communication. Working towards more regular and transparent communication now will only pay off with generations in the future.2. Learning: Bite Sized and Just-In-Time
A client recently asked us for help repackaging their training content to appeal more to their growing crop of Millennial sales professionals. To do this, we structured their content into a curriculum consisting of the top 10 sales skills that could be facilitated by leaders or frontline salespeople via peer-to -peer learning. The structure was flexible enough to support live or virtual education with a specific call-to-action and expected outcome. Their new training modules take less than 20-30 minutes to deliver, are highly collaborative and interactive, and involve no PowerPoint presentations. While sales organizations will always need to evaluate their most cost-effective delivery mode, organizations can start repackaging their content now so that it is simple, targeted, and takes minimal time and effort to consume. We expect learning to trend in this direction as we prepare to embrace the next generation.
*Gen Z & Corporate Learning*
Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers remember going to the library, using a phone book, or calling a friend when they needed to learn or research something. It was during their lifetime when Google instructions and YouTube “how to” videos became the answer to all of life’s on-demand curiosities. For Gen Z, however, the technology is native, meaning the ability to get a quick answer has always existed.
When it comes to the corporate learning, Gen Z is going to expect nothing less, so sales organizations should start working closely with L&D now to better package training on key processes and skills that are critical for learning and long-term success.3. Technology: Intuitive and Easy to Use
Most organizations are contemplating upgrades to their sales technology in order to enable their sales force to be more efficient and productive, while improving their win rate with clients. We have seen organizations make this shift by implementing technologies, such as Salesforce Lightning and Seismic. Both platforms are increasingly user-friendly and integrate well with other staple technologies, like email, finance systems, or other data feeds. Seismic takes sales professional enablement to the next level, because when implemented with full functionality, the platform generates up-to-date and client-specific content that is aligned to the right stage of the sales process. Instead of spending hours updating pitch decks, Seismic allows sales professionals to efficiently create fully customized pitch decks within minutes.
*Gen Z & Technology*
In 2007 my internship supervisor asked me to fax a document to another office. I spent about an hour tinkering with the fax machine trying to get the “transmission was successful” result before confessing to my supervisor that I had no idea how to use a fax machine. I’m a Millennial who has been in the workforce for 10 years, and I still don’t know how to use a fax machine because I haven’t bothered to learn.
Gen Z will feel no differently with aging sales technology; in fact, 91% of Gen Z said that technology sophistication would impact their interest in working at a company.2 Most organizations can look at their sales technologies today and tell us what is already out of date, not being used, or broken… a botched Salesforce implementation, a disorganized SharePoint website, or multiple systems that aren’t integrated and require duplicative data entry. Implementing new technology – the right way – takes time. Start making the shift now to be ready for the new crop of Gen Z sales professionals.4. Data: Insight and Action Oriented
Making data insight heavy and action-oriented largely depends on point #3 above, including implementing the right technology and achieving high levels of adoption. Excel spreadsheets with rows of data that include no trend, theme, or context is the opposite of what I mean by “insight heavy” and “action oriented.” While most sales professionals agree that data should drive action, 57% of sales organizations do not view themselves as effective users of advanced analytics today. “Forward-thinking companies are using the growth of data analytics and artificial intelligence to expand the frontier of value creation for B2B sales and are generating remarkable results in lead generation, people management, cross-selling, and pricing.”3 Data is powerful when it tells sales organizations useful information, such as how many people they need to effectively cover their markets, what types of leads are the highest quality and worth pursuing, where there are opportunities for up-sell, where to guard against leakage, and how to price or structure contracts to be most competitive.
*Gen Z and Data*
Social applications and fitness watches are two examples of technology today that are so engrained in our day-to-day because of the way they prompt us to take action and engage with the world. If we get a “like” from an old friend on Facebook, it reminds us to reach out and connect. If we have been sitting all day, our Apple watch prompts us to “stand up” or even “take a brisk 10-minute walk” in order to hit the daily step target.
Particularly because of these advancements in consumer analytics, we expect Gen Z to be more self-directive than prior generations. To have to rely on a central data team to pull a report and tell them how they may or may not interpret the data will feel completely tedious. Organizations should start taking the steps now to first, collect the data and then second, make the data useful in order to create self-sufficient sales teams.
There are many other ways that sales organizations can become more effective at sales – many of which depend on each sales organization’s unique business challenges. But, unlike the unpredictability of business challenges, Generation Z will start to enter the workforce in less than five years. Instead of ignoring the looming shift, we might as well take the right steps now in order to be ready to unlock the potential of the most diverse and best educated generation to ever exist.4