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Selling to Generation Y: Does Your Sales Training Need a Revamp?

Selling to Generation YSelling to Generation Y is a concept almost completely overlooked today. Yet Gen Y has attitudes, beliefs and challenges not present for the generations before it. Eddy Ricci, Jr., founder of The Growth Game and called "the emerging expert in develping Gen Y sales professionals" recently posted about "7 Signs Your Sales Training Needs a Revamp".

In my experience, few companies even think about sales training. They don't have any program at all. So the title may well be "7 Signs You Need Sales Training"; it would be just as valid.

A New Technological Sales Superweapon Does Not Exist

Ricci's first point is to look out for "Too much old school or too much new school." This is a bit vague, because you can sum it up as "use what works" instead and get to the same outcome. The truth is that sales do behave differently online. But I believe you would get the best results from realizing:

  • no new technological sales superweapon exists
  • a testing mindset will serve you well
  • optimized sales processes and funnels likely will take a few adjustments to get them right.

"There is no situational training" is Ricci's second point, and he's right. Roleplaying frightens many people over 50, who think it is 'weird'. But most of Gen Y, and those selling to Generation Y, would do well to remember that they are quite comfortable with the idea. So sitting down and playing "What If", one salesperson as the prospect and the other as themselves, is a powerful way to uncover the unexpected.

"If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril."
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We tend to be familiar with this bit of wisdom, though not to remember it at the right times. Knowing yourself--your preferences, how you want to communicate and receive information, what you value--and remaining aware that the large majority of prospects are different from you, will make you a better salesperson. "Did the trainees learn anything...about themselves?" is Ricci's third point. Believing your prospects are the same as you is a mistake.

Skip the "Pollyanna" Approach to Sales Training and Selling to Generation Y

Selling to Generation Y, or members of any generation, will result in positive or negative interactions. Despite the best intentions, training and pep talks, sales conversations will turn upside-down and salespeople will have bad experiences. Ricci notes that sweeping these potential situations under the rug in his fourth point, "The real world...all, or nothing at all", is no help to trainees. The good, the bad and the ugly must be discussed in the training...or beat-up salespeople will quit when prospects do not behave in the compliant way advertised.

"No measurable outcomes" is listed as Ricci's fifth point. Without targets and measures, how will we know if a training program is effective?

Follow up coaching is often missing from sales training. Yet ongoing reinforcement is critical to success. Concepts, techniques and ideas will not be remembered after a few weeks, when the trainee slips back into their old comfort zone. "I'm talking about PRACTICE, not the game", Ricci announces as his sixth point. He lists peer feedback and accountability as essential to retaining and improving these skills. These activities are valuable when selling to Generation Y.

Using Web-Based Tools for Training and Selling to Generation Y Is an Effective Solution

Finally, Ricci says if "The program is on VHS!" you are losing the ability for sales staff to train on their own time. With web-based training tools, this generation's salespeople will be more likely to want to figure it out for themselves.

Overall, Ricci makes good points about reviewing the effectiveness of your sales training program. But if you are in the position of many firms, and don't have a program at all, it's time to implement one. At least you'll be starting with one major advantage: no bad habits.

Selling to Generation Y, and by salespeople who are members of that generation, requires new tools. Inertia, "we do it this way because it's the way we've always done it," is not one of them.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer. Was this post helpful? Please Like, Share or Comment to let others know! <<

Jason Kanigan

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