Strategic Sales, Complex Sales, Consultative Sales. The approach we use to identify, prospect, close, maintain and grow our key accounts is typically long and arduous. According to the 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization study from CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, 75.3 percent of respondents revealed their ability to develop and execute strategic plans needs improvement. Foundational to ensuring success for any such program is the identification of the best candidates. And if you’re looking for talent, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll run across a few millennial candidates.
Millennials have a reputation for demanding immediate satisfaction. Raised on tech, they are used to getting answers fast. While some millennials fancy themselves as workaholics, the jury is out on whether this generation will garner long-term success in sales, particularly business development involving solutions with long sales cycles and increasingly complex buying behaviors.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported in 2015 that three out of four millennials base their career choices according to work-life balance. Despite their efforts to seek out balance, a 2015 Gallup poll showed that millennials are the least engaged group in the workplace, with a mere 28.9 percent reporting that they are engaged.
We’re headed toward a millennial-dominated workforce in a matter of a few short years. I began to wonder, is this generation equipped for the demands of a sales career, especially one that may offer little to no gratification in the form of a closed deal, for months at a time?
I ran the topic by famed sales transformation strategist, Mike Kunkle. Here’s his perspective:
Mike Kunkle: I believe the hype about millennials and generational differences is overblown. This is especially true about attention span and how they learn, because the human brain evolves very slowly. Are there some differences? Sure. Mostly because they’re young or due to the normal nature/nurture differences that influence us all. But there is evidence that the hype is overblown for how they work, too.
I have some advice on this topic — I just think it applies more broadly than just to millennials. The answer is simple: Focus on buying process exit criteria, per decision maker. Don’t confuse simple with easy, but the gist is this: “Buying process exit criteria” are the things a buyer needs to see, hear, feel, touch and/or believe in their current stage of their buyer’s journey, to feel comfortable moving forward to the next stage of their journey, with you. If you focus on these specific, stage-based, individually-determined decision criteria for each decision-maker and influencer in the complex sale, you can:
- Overcome the bias that many buyers have against sellers – that sellers don’t really understand their buyers – and build trust and better relationships.
- Foster a robust discovery that will illuminate many things beyond decision criteria.
- Remove superstition from the sales process. Rather than focus on what you normally do or think you should do, you can focus on what matters most to each buyer.
- Accelerate pipeline velocity.
- Uncover differences in what matters to each decision maker, reducing the likelihood of being blind-sided by stalls or ‘No Decision’ statuses.
Parcel the longer, complex sale into smaller compartmentalized, more manageable pieces, where you take steps in each stage to understand, differentiate, and meet the various Buying Process Exit Criteria per Decision Maker. To exploit another popular buzzword, you are essentially gamifying the process by setting smaller goals and being rewarded by progress when you meet them.
In his book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach wrote, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” After absorbing Mike’s comments, I recalled this quote and realized that sales acumen is not generational. The means by which we guide our clients – our sales process and methodology – can flex, as long as we keep the needs of the client at the forefront. Let’s leverage the reams of data that have been published regarding the millennial generation to ensure their success, not to pigeonhole their limitations.
About Mike Kunkle:
Mike Kunkle is a well-known sales transformation strategist, practitioner, speaker, and writer. He’s spent 22 years as a corporate leader or consultant, helping companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class learning strategies and his proven-effective sales transformation methodology. Today, Mike is freelancing as a writer, speaker, webinar leader, and sales transformation consultant while exploring the market for his next career adventure. You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @Mike_Kunkle.