The following is an excerpt from Repertoire’s October feature on Millenial sales reps. To read the full article, visit www.repertoiremag.com to download the digital version of the magazine.
Old-timers (over 30) may harbor preconceptions – and misconceptions – of the Millennials, that is, those born between the years 1981 and 1996. But it’s time to put them away, says Tom DeCarlo. After all, we all have to get along.
Professor DeCarlo knows all about Millennials, particularly those who are entering the workforce as medical products sales reps. That’s because he is the organizer of the Medical Equipment and Supplies Distribution track of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Marketing and Industrial Distribution Program. Many of his students take sales courses through UAB’s Professional Sales Excellence Center, setting themselves up for careers in medical sales.
“I teach [Millennials] all the time,” says DeCarlo, a Ph.D. and Ben S. Weil Endowed Chair of Industrial Distribution. “Everybody’s different.” Still, if you take a random sample of Millennials and a random sample of Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers, some characteristics become apparent.
“Millennials were raised by Baby Boomers,” he says. “They [the parents] are used to success. They work hard, they coddled their children more, they focused on their children’s success.” Consequently, Millennials tend to have grown up in fairly structured environments, with structured activities. That has an impact on how they perform in the workplace.
The difference between a typical Millennial and a Gen X’er or Boomer is apparent at the job interview, says DeCarlo. Many 50-year-olds, for example, are used to being rather individualistic. In contrast, 25-year-old job-seekers tend to have more experience participating in group projects. “They would be more inclined to talk about their work in teams,” he says.
Millennials may tend to thrive when working in teams, but that’s not to say they aren’t competitive, says DeCarlo. “Some of the research suggests they are very highly success-oriented. Being team-driven doesn’t necessarily equate to being self-sacrificing.
“But they view competition in a more global sense. It’s not just me-focused. It’s ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to help my company improve the bottom line.’” Put the Millennial in a situation where he or she can have a positive impact on the company, and sky’s the limit as to what they will do, he adds.
“They work hard, but feedback has to be there. You have to set goals, almost as if you’re coaching them as part of a team. If they sense you’re doing that, they’ll knock down walls for you.”
What about the multitasking, such as texting during a staff meeting? Isn’t that a sign of laziness or lack of focus? No, says DeCarlo. More than likely, it’s a sign that he or she feels they can access information later, probably online; and that they can take care of more urgent matters – which may require texting – right now.
“There is a detriment to multitasking, clearly,” says DeCarlo. “But you can expect more from [Millennials] as a result. They can do things quicker than older generations. In fact, they look for the quickest way to get things done, and they’re excited about that.” But what DeCarlo experiences while teaching at the University of Alabama is what sales managers should take note of. “If you engage students, they won’t text. On the other hand, if I slip into a lecture mode, they’re thinking, ‘This is in the notes or in the book, which I can read later.’ So it’s important for the trainer to engage them and keep them at full attention.
“Some professors don’t get that,” he says. “They blame the students rather than looking at themselves and recognizing they’re not doing anything that’s relevant to them.
“Companies should recognize the same thing. Trainers or managers dealing with Millennials need to be prepared to deal with the multitasking. But they can also leverage it to become even more efficient.”