Five Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sales Kickoff

By Jim Ninivaggi

Register now to hear Jim Ninivaggi speak at the Sales 3.0 Conference December 4 in Philadelphia, where he will present “Perpetual Sales Readiness: The New World of ‘Always On’ Learning for Sales.”

Many companies are in planning mode for their sales kickoff meetings – hoping to set the strategy, motivation, and momentum for a successful FY18. I’ve been at kickoffs where the excitement and electricity in the room were palpable. They had that spine-tingling moment we all know: where the hair on the back of your neck stands up because you’re so energized and inspired. Pity the competition, we thought – they have no idea what they’re in for!

On the flip side, I’ve also attended kickoffs where ostensibly well-laid plans went awry, giving way to lackluster, boring, and unsuccessful events. In cases like these, a domino effect often kicks in. After all, a kickoff isn’t just a single event in isolation – it sets the tone for the rest of the year. If reps leave confused or uninspired, that can impact morale, retention, and results.

Here are five common mistakes that can derail kickoffs – and ways you can avoid these errors.

#1 – Giving Bad News First

Imagine your sales team is seated in an auditorium. You’ve had a good year. Then the head of sales proclaims: “To capitalize on this momentum, we’re going to ask even more of you – splitting your territories in half and doubling your quotas.” (not an atypical scenario!)

How are reps going to feel? Chances are, this news will dominate their minds during the event, crowding out opportunities to absorb other information.

You’re better served getting out any “bad” news before the kickoff – such as at town-hall meetings, where reps and managers can process the details. Then, you can use the kickoff to inspire reps to achieve the new goals you’re setting – showing them how they can make the money they’re looking to make.

#2 – Using Kickoffs for Training

All too often, companies use kickoffs to introduce and train reps on new sales methodologies and skills. That makes sense at a superficial level – after all, the whole company is together, right?  

But you’re competing with a lot of noise in the form of new territory assignments, new compensation plans, late-night social events, etc. – which often doesn’t leave attendees in the best shape for learning. I can’t tell you how many training sessions I’ve delivered where I’ve looked at the audience and wondered, “Am I speaking out loud?”

Instead, conduct upfront knowledge and skills transfer prior to your kickoff, so reps come ready to apply what they’ve learned. Then, the kickoff can focus on practice, application, and certification.

For example, I once worked with a software company that took a great approach. They had traditionally sold to CIOs and were launching a product geared toward CMOs. Prior to the kickoff, we got reps in the mindset to pivot – providing manager-led training, e-learning and video coaching on how to sell to this role. Then, at the event, reps could put their newly acquired skills to the test, engaging in role-play with former CMOs we’d brought in. These interactions drove high interest and engagement, and helped advance the company’s sales transformation.

#3 – Delivering Inconsistent Presentations

How’s this for mixed messages? The CEO takes the stage at your kickoff, discussing how your organization needs to move from selling products to selling solutions that solve business problems. Two presentations later, it’s the head of marketing’s turn – who immediately touts a new product and enumerates all the whiz-bang features, with no regard for how they address challenges.

This lack of alignment can give way to a disjointed, incongruous event – with the field force confused and inclined to dismiss any need for change. After all, if their bosses are still presenting “the old way,” why should reps do anything different?

To avoid mixed messages, designate a presentation “editor-in-chief” prior to kickoff. This person should be responsible for reviewing everything for consistency: the presentations’ style, template, strategic messaging, etc. The person should also ensure quality in the presenters and in any product demonstrations – since unveiling a new product that doesn’t work on stage is a surefire way to squash reps’ confidence to sell it.

#4 – Choosing the “Wrong” Motivational Speaker

I don’t have anything against celebrities and sports figures. However, I’ve often noticed an inverse relationship between a speaker’s level of star power and the amount of effort they’ll put into researching your company. And, if your company isn’t important enough for your speaker to understand it, how can that person say anything of value to your reps?

To avoid losing credibility, find a speaker who will take time to understand your business and theme, and bring in relevant stories. Not everyone relates to athletes – so seek someone with a broad appeal, who can connect to the audience as a whole. Often, this may be a speaker you’ve never heard of before, but who has a compelling story to tell.

One of the most powerful speakers I remember keynoted a kickoff dedicated to personal accountability. With a spotlight on him, he paced back and forth on the dimly lit stage. We all wondered what he was doing – until he explained that the steps represented his living space during his six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. His story about taking control of his life in the face of harrowing conditions set a powerful foundation for the theme.  

#5 – Neglecting Team-building Activities

Bringing the company together does little good if everyone retreats to their cliques. It’s important to incorporate mechanisms that encourage cross-pollination, so people from different geographies get to know each other through collaborative projects, contests, and social activities.

An internal social platform (not an external forum or hashtag) can complement face-to-face interactions and help attendees provide feedback in real time. Team-building activities – especially ones with a positive social impact – can also engage and invigorate the company, and are often particularly attractive to millennials. At our 2017 Brainshark kickoff, for example, we put attendees into teams and, with the proper instruction, had them build bikes together. The bikes were then donated to a children’s charity.

Good Luck!

As you prepare for your kickoff, it’s important to avoid these mistakes and think about ways to extend your kickoff’s theme throughout the year. Best wishes for a successful event and prosperous FY18!

Jim Ninivaggi is chief readiness officer at Brainshark, Inc., a leading sales enablement solutions company. In his role, he helps prepare the Brainshark sales force with the knowledge and skills to optimize every buyer interaction. Jim has more than 30 years of experience driving B2B sales productivity and, prior to Brainshark, led the sales enablement research practice at SiriusDecisions – providing clients with data, insight, and thought leadership to maximize sales effectiveness and accelerate revenues. He has also held various positions in sales, ranging from individual contributor to sales management and sales leadership. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNinivaggi. Register to hear him speak at the Sales 3.0 Conference December 4 in Philadelphia, where he will present “Perpetual Sales Readiness: The New World of ‘Always On’ Learning for Sales.”

Five Sales Compensation Problems that Need Urgent Attention

Mark Donnolo SLB post

By Mark Donnolo

After a day in the field with Tony from Philly, I knew something was terribly wrong. Tony had enjoyed introducing me to his clients, the guys in the warehouse, and the truck drivers in the parking lot. Tony was friendly and had fun spending time talking to everyone. He was relaxed about his job and had been successful for 20 years.

But, back at the home office, I got an earful. The head of sales leaned over his desk and complained relentlessly about the sales organization. “They’re a pack of lap dogs. They’re not out hunting down new business. They’re just taking orders. They’re overpaid service people. Why don’t they have the drive to get out and find some new volume?”

I had just witnessed it first hand – lots of talking, but not necessarily to the right people. The conversation Tony had with the buyer was just as the SVP had suspected – a check-in to see if he wanted to order more. When the buyer said he was ok for now, Tony went to visit his friends in the warehouse.

Tony wasn’t the problem; he was just doing what he was paid to do. After reading his sales compensation plan, I saw that Tony was paid on customer visits, which included all time spent on the customer’s property – even the time spent filling out the call report while we sat in the parking lot. The problem was the compensation plan, and it was a big enough problem to require immediate repair.

Salespeople do what they are paid to do – for better or for worse. It makes sense, then, that challenges with sales compensation can wreak havoc on a business. Below are five problems that require immediate attention.

  1. Beginning with mechanics. The sales compensation design process has to start with the sales strategy. What does the business want to accomplish? Is the strategy to sell more products to its current customers or to enter a new market? Too many design teams begin with their calculators and discussions about pay mix and multipliers – which is the middle of the process. A sales compensation program that is not in line with the overall strategy for the business will, at best, have the sales reps running in circles and, at worst, make revenue goals impossible to achieve.

  2. Paying a lap dog to do a Doberman’s job. Tony from Philly was a lap dog. He was capable of taking care of current customers, but he wasn’t ever going to get new business – from that customer or any other. If the SVP wants new customers, he needs a different type of salesperson, a more aggressive new business developer. And, of course, he needs to pay that role differently than he pays Tony. Dobermans need more pay at risk (50 percent base salary and 50 percent incentive is common) to feel hungry enough to go out and win new business. Lap dogs typically have a shallower pay mix (80 percent base salary and 20 percent incentive, or even 90/10) to keep the rep close to the customer.

  3. Punishing top performers. I once had a VP of sales tell me, “We take last year’s quotas and add 10 percent. That’s sales 101, right?” Wrong. Adding 10 percent to the revenue a rep brought in last year – without any examination of the market – is essentially a penalty. If Sarah had a great year and brought in $1,000,000, she may or may not have the same potential in her market to bring in $1,100,000 this year. A better method to setting quotas is to take a top-down and bottom-up approach. Try to meet the number handed down by sales leadership with real opportunities in the market. By combining a bottom-up view with the top-down expectations, you can consider granular information from the field and reconcile it with a bird’s-eye view of how that opportunity looks across markets and overall trends for market growth.

  4. Paying for everything. Another problem I see is the 100-page sales compensation plan. These are the plans that want to manage by proxy – the proxy being the sales comp plan. As businesses and solutions have become more complex, the temptation to put too much in the plan has increased as well. While the early pioneers of sales compensation may have paid only on revenue or units sold, modern plans may pay not only on revenue, units, or profit, but also on the type of revenue, the type of customer, the product and service mix, growth from protecting base revenue, growing current customers, winning new customers, and whether the sale was booked or billed. The possible combinations can make a rep’s head spin and lose direction. It doesn’t work.

    To create a clear message, an effective sales compensation plan will typically have three or fewer measures, and no measure will carry less than 15 percent weight of target incentive. By focusing the measures, the organization can increase the focus of the person in that sales role. Managers – by managing – will do the rest.

  5. Over-over allocating quota. “Over-allocation” refers to padding the quota. It’s the tactic of taking the sales goal for the business overall and, as it is allocated down through the layers of management, each manager adds a little extra. For example, a company with a $1 billion corporate goal with a sum of all frontline quotas of $1.05 billion has over-allocated its goal by 5 percent. Most organizations over-allocate quotas by about 3 percent to 5 percent from top goal to front line. And that’s all good – that little extra allocation acts like an insurance policy. If the manager has a sales position that remains unfilled for a period of time, or if a rep falls short on his quota, the over-allocation also makes up for some of that performance shortfall.

    However, when the quota is over-allocated too much at too many levels, it can lead to distortion on the front line. It can quickly get to a point where the C level and the front line have two different realities. The sun may shine at the C level (because they’re on track for the company goal) while the front line sees only cloudy skies. Keep your quota allocation trim so executives and reps all participate in the company’s success.

MarkDonnoloMark Donnolo is managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results and What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.

4 Habits Leaders Should Lose in 2015

leaders good ideas

We tend to start the year with the best of intentions and high hopes. But sometimes our bad habits are hard to shake. This year, think about saying goodbye to these four simple obstacles that often impede success for sales leaders.

1. Operate solely on gut instinct. 

Do you have good business and management instincts? Of course you do — or you wouldn’t have climbed to a leadership position.

On the other hand, we are living in the age of data. Sales leaders who want to take control of their pipeline and forecast must start tracking data and studying analytics now. For example, HubSpot Chief Revenue Officer Mark Roberge leverages science and technology to make the HubSpot sales process truly customer-oriented.

Many sales teams run on blind optimism and the best-guesses of the sales manager. However, a growing abundance of technology and sales-enablement tools are changing the way we think about managing and leading a sales team. It’s important to listen to your gut … but if you ignore data, you’ll get left behind.

2. Make your ideas conform to expected standards. 

Once they reach a certain level of success, some sales leaders play it safe when it comes to ideas. Usually that’s because they’ve become complacent and lost the hunger that once gave them an edge. Consequently they avoid or tamp down any idea that seems too weird, radical, or risky.

However, consider that commodified creativity is a race to the bottom. When you make your idea like everyone else’s, you fail to stand out and differentiate yourself. Follow the advice of author and marketing guru Seth Godin, who said in this TED Talk that bad and bizarre ideas are far preferable to boring or ordinary ideas.

3. Fail to keep learning.

What skills would make you a better sales leader? And how can you help your reps become better sellers?

The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate everyone’s skill sets and figure out how you and your team can improve in the next 12 months. Should you take a public-speaking course? Hone your coaching skills? Tune into what analysts, authors, and thought leaders are saying about the sales profession? Foster a culture of learning, and improvements will follow.

4. Stress out.

With great responsibility comes great stress. But many leader fall into the trap of thinking about too many things at the same time. This is extremely fatiguing and stress producing.

To stop stressing out, try making a list of other things you must do, and then put it aside so that you don’t have to think about them but won’t worry about forgetting them, either. Stop throughout the day to see if you are relaxed. Are your hands clenched? Is your jaw tight? If so, let your arms hang loosely, unwrinkle your brow, relax your mouth, and breathe deeply.

Make 2015 the year you leave bad habits behind and open yourself up to greater success than you could imagine.

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[Image via Flickr / Adrian Kingsley-Hughes]

Four Ways Sales Leaders Can Motivate Their Millennials

By Josiane Feigon

So you think you know who your top performers are?

The Bridge Group and VorsightBP studied more than 2,000 sales professionals, including individual contributors, front-line managers, and directors. The study focused on the management qualities of and tactics used by the most motivated and enthusiastic employees. In the area of job satisfaction,

  • forty-five percent of respondents were “detractors,” or the least likely to recommend a role in their organization to a colleague or friend;
  • twenty-eight percent were “passives” who were not enthusiastic about recommending a role to a colleague or friend;
  • twenty-seven percent were “promoters” who were enthusiastic about recommending a role.

The study identified four keys to successfully motivating sales reps, focusing on motivational influencers:

  1. “My manager is hardly available for any coaching.” Reps who reported more than three hours of coaching per month were twice as likely to be promoters. The catch: the reps reported 40 percent fewer hours per month spent on coaching than their managers reported, so reps are not perceiving the same value in the coaching that managers see. Managers should make it a priority to get in sync with their teams on this topic.
  2. “What’s next after I accomplish that?” Identifying skill-development goals will make reps three times more likely to be promoters, according to the study. Reps (and this is especially true of your Millennials) really value a sense of progression and achievement in the workplace. If a rep has a development goal in mind, and he or she is receiving regular coaching to get there, then the rep is going to be much less likely to get antsy and feel like it’s time to move on.
  3. “Can you explain my comp plan to me one more time? I don’t get it.” Three out of every 10 reps in the study reported being unclear about their incentive-compensation plan, a state that correlated to a 300 percent drop in engagement (i.e., they were three times less likely to be promoters). Three out of 10 isn’t overwhelming, but considering how motivation – or the lack thereof – is contagious on the sales floor, it’s definitely enough to be influential.
  4. “I’ve been here for three months and believe I’m ready for the next step.” The study reported a significant gap between reps’ expectations about when they should be promoted to a new role. The less experience the rep had, the less time he or she thought it should take. This is a frequently cited issue when managing new hires who are Millennials. It’s also a major reason why having early conversations about career-path expectations is one major motivation factor cited in this study.
Josiane Feigon
Today’s post is by Josiane Feigon, author of Smart Sales Manager
Smart Selling on the Phone and Online and founder of TeleSmart Communications.

Lessons in Determination: Remembering Muriel Siebert

This week we mark the anniversary of the death of financial-industry pioneer Muriel Siebert with this history of her perseverance in the face of rejection and adversity. — Selling Power Editors

Muriel Siebert Muriel Siebert established her legacy as a trailblazer when she became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange on December 28, 1967. At the time, her historic application caused an uproar. No woman had ever had a seat on the Exchange before. Facing ridicule and steep opposition, Siebert got rejections from nine men before she finally found someone to sponsor her.

Siebert faced many hurdles on the way to success. In 1954, she had arrived in New York City with just $500 to her name. She set her sights on a job in finance, but when prospective employers saw a female name, they trashed her resume.

After repeated rejections, Siebert sent out new resumes with just her initials. She got an interview and a job offer. The deal fell through, however, when she admitted she didn’t have a college degree (she had dropped out of Case Western Reserve University to care for her terminally ill father).

When, after so many unfair rejections, she got a second job offer, she lied and said she had a degree.

“They didn’t check,” said Siebert in an interview with Senior Women Web. “But when I applied for my seat on the Stock Exchange, I told them. It was a historic application and I didn’t want to lie.”

Her next hurdle was a new rule put forth by the Stock Exchange requiring a letter from a bank promising to lend Siebert $300,000 of the near-record $445,000 seat price. Unfortunately, banks would not lend her money until the Stock Exchange would admit her. With dogged determination, Siebert jumped through every hoop and found the funding she needed. In 1967, she became the first woman to hold a seat on the Exchange.

Siebert became widely known as a force to be reckoned with in the notoriously cutthroat and male-dominated world of finance. Siebert created her own firm, Siebert & Co., and continued to take bold and controversial risks. In 1975 when a new federal law abolished fixed brokerage commissions, she transformed her company into a discount brokerage house. Her longtime clearinghouse dropped her like a hot potato, and she was nearly expelled by the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the eleventh hour, she secured another clearinghouse, and the success of her company helped pave the way for the now-thriving discount brokerage market.

In 1977 Siebert took a leave of absence to serve as the first woman Superintendent of Banking. She had to ensure the safety and soundness of New York State’s 500 banks, which controlled $500 billion in assets and trust accounts. The economy made playing tough a necessity. Interest rates spiked during Siebert’s tenure, and banks all over the country went belly up.

Siebert facilitated mergers, supervised drastic restructurings and even convinced one bank president to cut his own salary by $100,000. Under her direction, not one New York bank failed.

After an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, Siebert returned to her company in 1982. In 1996, her firm merged with a private company. Siebert Financial Corporation currently pulls in more than $25 million in revenues a year.

In 2000, Siebert Financial founded Women’s Financial Network, the first online trading site geared specifically toward women. Siebert was encouraged to see more women taking control of their financial futures. “When you get more confidence,” she told Senior Women Web, “you’re willing to take a higher risk.” Spoken like a true trailblazer.

Seven Motivational Questions for Sales Managers

motivateThe universal question all sales managers ask is: How can I motivate my people?

Through hundreds of research reports, one message rings loud and clear: to increase motivation, create an atmosphere where the salespeople motivate themselves. When a salesperson feels personally involved in a plan, he or she works to make it happen. To create a self-motivating atmosphere, as a manager, ask yourself the following seven questions. Notice that each one involves improving communications with your staff.

1. Do your people know your plans?

The best way to motivate people is to let them know your plans so they can participate in them. Also, make known your goals and the goals of the company. Let them see the big picture and get a sense of the importance of their contribution to it.

2. Do you give feedback?

Feedback is essential even to seemingly well-motivated salespeople. Every salesperson wants to be encouraged if he or she is doing well. If they are not doing well, they want to know why. By giving feedback, you keep the communications channels open. If your salespeople know you’re willing to discuss performance with them, they’ll be more likely to bring you their problems and questions to keep you better informed. Create an atmosphere where people are not afraid to tell you when something is wrong and you will have fewer surprises.

3. Do you build on strengths? 

Many managers have been programmed to focus on weaknesses – as though any imperfection would negate or detract from any strength. This is not so. All success comes from strengths. An intelligent and persistent person, who is also physically handicapped, succeeds because of intelligence and persistence, and in spite of any physical handicap.

4. Do you give constructive praise?

Perhaps the most golden rule for sales management is, “Never be too tough on a person when he’s down.” When an individual is upset over failure, harping on the negative can hurt him and squelch any incentive to improve. Even when giving criticism, you can create a positive framework: “I don’t think this is up to your usual standard. How can we improve this situation?”

5. Do you give rewards? 

If your salespeople meet their agreed-upon objectives, it is a good idea not to limit their rewards to kind words. Money, bonuses and incentives are key motivators for salespeople. But another reward you can give a high achiever is your time. Most managers spend the bulk of their time with the poor performers and let the best ones fend for themselves. When someone does a good job, recognize his or her efforts and set aside time to develop ways to motivate that salesperson to do even more.

6. Do you listen and learn? 

No matter what other techniques you employ in a quest to motivate your people, you have to be prepared to ask questions and to listen at least as much as you talk. No one’s ideas should be missed. You needn’t seize on every suggestion, but if you don’t at least get back to the person and say, “That was a terrific idea,” and thank him, he’ll never give you another one. Always give proper recognition for every valid suggestion.

7. Do you set an example?

The best sales manager is a good role model – not once in a while, but every day. Your salespeople pay 90 percent more attention to what you do than what you say. Actions do speak louder than words. A good manager knows how to say no, to be tough but fair. In other words, if you don’t handle the responsibilities of your own leadership position, you can’t expect your salespeople to live up to their job responsibilities either.

Successful sales managers are motivating all the time, not just when performance is down. A manager should always strive for maximum people potential – to get the best from each individual in his or her organization. The objective is always to let the other person determine the means to growth and to take the responsibility for his own development.

[Image via Flickr / Aristocrats-hat]

How Leaders Inspire Teams to Take Action

To get better results from your sales meetings, study how great speakers inspire others to take action.

Great leaders and great speakers all have carefully planned conclusions to speeches that inspire others to act. Think of President John F. Kennedy’s famous words during his Inaugural Address in 1961.

John Kennedy ask not what your country

If you want people to take action after the meeting, you need to plan and then present a convincing conclusion. Here is a step-by-step method to plan and present a convincing conclusion at your next sales meeting.

1) When you sit down to prepare your meeting, write the ending first. What should salespeople be able to do after the meeting? What will they need to do different in the future? What does your top salesperson do that your other salespeople don’t? When you write the ending first, it will be much easier to plan the introduction and body of your meeting.

2) Be very specific about what you want your salespeople to do. Avoid vague words like “understand” and “appreciate.” List no more than two or three actions, any more will be difficult to remember. Tell them what you want them to do and when. For instance:

  • Schedule five face-to-face appointments with new prospects for next week.
  • Ask each prospect what he likes best and least about his present method.
  • Ask each prospect to speculate on future time, money, and productivity costs if she doesn’t solve their problem now.

3) Make at least one of the actions something simple your salespeople can do immediately. As the saying goes, “well begun is half done.” If your salespeople leave with something simple to do they are more likely to do it. When they take action and achieve results they will be more likely to act on the other things you asked them to do.

4) Outline your conclusion. Summarize key points in two short, but memorable, sentences. Restate the main benefit and appeal to salespeople’s emotion as well as logic. Emotional appeals include financial freedom, health/vitality, safety, romance, piece of mind, and personal fulfillment.Tell your salespeople specifically what you want them to do.

5) Plan to conclude well before your time is up. How often have you run out of time at the end of a meeting and rushed to finish? You aren’t holding your salespeople’s attention if they’re looking at the clock. Anticipate that your meeting will take 30 percent longer than you think. If you normally have one-hour sales meetings, plan your agenda to conclude at the 40 minute mark.

6) Save your best “Ah ha!” points for last. Too many sales meetings flow like a bell curve, up at the beginning and down at the end. This brings your audience down just before the most important part-your conclusion. Pull out a pad of Post-It notes and write just one topic on each note. Arrange your topics to ensure that you build up to a conclusion and not down.

7) Follow up to measure the action taken. Great speakers know that their success is measured by the action that the audience takes as a result. Be specific in your follow-up. For instance, in the example cited earlier you might ask, “How many new face-to-face appointments did you set for last week? What questions did you ask? What were your results?”

What you say last is what your salespeople will remember most. A well planned and presented conclusion can inspire your team to action. When you follow these simple steps your meetings will be more effective. Plus, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment when you see your ideas actually being implemented in the field.

Sales Leaders, Keep Your Millennials Happy and Hungry

By Josiane Feigon 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics and trends cited within are taken from “MTV Studies Millennials In The Workplace: Uses It To Transform Its Own, Maybe Even Yours.”

Millennials are rocking the sales world big time. We love their boldness, spirit, and eagerness to participate. Fortunately, these young and energetic team members are also savvy, successful sellers who want to learn in their own style: collaborative, congenial, and competitive.

Milennial professional
[Image: Flickr]
But they can also send sales managers scrambling; Millennials tend to want answers now, and they can become bored with traditional sales-training methods. Because these superheroes will dominate our sales universe before you know it, we’ve compiled this field guide to the Millennial generation’s special qualities:

They thrive in a chill workplace. A chill workplace feeds their soul and a work-life balance, and it encourages new friendships. Millennials are not necessarily interested in paying their dues: 93 percent say they want more than a paycheck; they want a job that works with their lifestyle.

Just ask Siri. In today’s search-driven, quick-response, high-pressure, digital and social Sales 2.0 environment, managers feel like they’re channeling Siri – and it’s not fun! The Millennial generation, who make up the vast majority of new hires, wants your answers delivered to their inbox NOW.

Tell me why.” Millennials are also sometimes known as Generation Why, because they crave understanding. They need to smell, taste, touch, feel, and understand every reason why something works and why it doesn’t.

They fear being kicked off the island. Many Millennials grew up watching such TV shows as Survivor, The Bachelor, The Real World, American Idol, and The Apprentice. They understand (and fear) getting “kicked off the island.” They can be hard on themselves and mistake feedback for rejection. In general, they need to learn the real meaning behind customers’ objections.

Are they  always job hunting? Millennials will hold up to 11 jobs by the time they are 38 years old, but that doesn’t mean they will work for 38 different companies and should be treated as disposable workers. They have staying power. According to Hireology’s “Inside the Mind of a Millennial Job Seeker,” they will stay longer if they are kept engaged.

What’s next? Millennials tend to be hungry for new activities that keep them engaged. In the training world, that means you must vary the learning method from partnering to break-out sessions to standing up and writing on whiteboards.

Microcoaching is a must. Today’s Talent 2.0 is watching every step you make, and these employees want you to reciprocate – they love attention, and they want yours. Millennials don’t need help with the dailies as much as they need help with strategy, ideas, techniques, and tips. Sixty-one percent of Millennials say they need specific directions from the boss to do their best work.

“How am I doing?” Millennials thrive on regular – read: constant – feedback. They want to always know where they stand and are hungry for reinforcement. They always look for acknowledgment, which helps them learn and retain information.

They love rewards and prizes. They look for recognition. They want to know where they stand and get rewarded for it. But be warned: they could very well be bored by coffee-shop gift cards and trinkets. For them, it’s all about access, not possession. My take? Go with gift certificates to Netflix, Amazon, or AmEx instead.

Join us in the playroom! Taking short breaks is important because it allows your team to recharge. Some companies provide a playroom, with foosball, shuffleboard, and darts, where workers can actively take their mind off work.

Training must be very visual. Millennials need Facebook, Instagram, and video validation. They grew up with their lives heavily documented on video and in photographs and scrapbooks, and they are part of the “quantified self” generation. Forget tons of data and reading – training must include the “visual bling” component.

They defy authority. Hierarchies don’t exist for Millennials. Their parents wanted to be their “peer-ents,” so they grew up believing they were equals with authority. They trust their peers more than they trust authority figures. Sales Millennials break the barriers when it comes to hierarchy, and they place more value on their workplace being fun and social. Company-sponsored happy hours have replaced meetings.

They’re hungry for a home. According to, Millennials are sitting on huge school loans, so more than ever, they have to earn a steady income. They want you to provide a comfortable home – that is, a fun place to work where they can bring their friends, who are their fellow team members. Maybe they’ll never move out of the comfortable “home” you built for them.

They’re always on. The need to be “on” all the time is a reality but not a good one considering today’s multiple mobile devices. This is serious: 60 percent of workplace distractions come from email and social networking, and 14 percent of workers say they will tune out a meeting to Tweet or update their status on a social network.

Download your copy of the 14 Smart Inside Sales Trends in 2014 report and stay ahead of today’s rapidly changing Sales 2.0 trends.

How to Retain and Motivate Sales Reps: Money versus Happiness

All sales leaders want to motivate reps to high levels of performance and retain their top earners. What’s the secret to success in these areas?

To find out, you might start by asking sales reps what they want in exchange for their hard work. And one of the first things they’re likely to say is higher commissions and bigger bonuses.

In some ways, this makes sense. Everyone wants a stable income and to be able to provide for themselves and their families. And because salespeople are competitive, they typically appreciate benchmarks to measure how they’re doing, and money is an easy indicator to look at. If they’re making $10k more this year than last year, they feel like a success. If they can finally afford to buy big-ticket items (cars, clothes, gadgets) they feel like everyone else knows they’re a success, too.

It is one thing to be motivated by money, but it’s another to use money as a means to happiness, fulfillment, and meaning. While sales reps don’t always talk about these things, these factors have a big influence on their decision to stay with your company or start looking around for the next opportunity.

Science suggests that, past a certain point, money does not make us any happier. This video from AsapSCIENCE points out that people generally adapt quickly to higher levels of income. Research has shown that, in North America, income beyond $75,000 has no impact on our levels of daily happiness.

If you believe that part of keeping reps motivated means keeping them happy, then maybe it’s time to stop relying so heavily on cash as an incentive.

Reps will always appreciate your help in getting to the next level financially. But if you help them learn to define success and happiness outside of money, that creates a valuable dynamic of trust and support. Those qualities can actually become your competitive advantage — companies that have deeper pockets to pay blowout commissions will be less of a threat to poaching your reps.

In fact, there is evidence to uphold the idea that money is not the greatest long-term strategy for keeping reps around. The fact that money can be fleeting might be something that older and wiser reps learn to understand on their own — Peak Sales Recruiting points out that, over the course of a sales rep’s career, research has shown that higher earners report lower levels of interest in more money.

Money comes and goes, but the value of strong relationships never fails. As a sales leader, what steps are you currently taking to motivate and retain your reps, beyond using money?