How to Train and Retain Your Millennial Workforce in 2017

As we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders: Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

Millennial marketerAs we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders:

Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

As of 2015, the Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce. They learn differently, work differently and think differently than previous generations. And as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, many sales organizations will have four generations working side by side:

  • Baby-Boomers (1945-64)
  • Gen X (1965-80)
  • Millennials (1981-95)
  • Gen Z (1996-2010)

So, is your company well positioned to handle the needs of your Millennial sales representatives?

Consider how your company stacks up against the following statement:

To inspire the millennial learners of today, sales training must be accessible anytime, anywhere and in ways that are structured, yet flexible, personalized, interactive, stimulating and social.

To compete in the war for talent, effectively on-board, develop and retain Millennials, we believe that the above statement outlines the absolute minimum for leading companies over the next two to three years.

Let’s break it down:

1. Accessible Anytime, Anywhere

Millennials want answers now! Millennial learners have grown up as digital natives; Millennials turn to Google for instantaneous response to any burning question they may have. Whether during the workday, or at 9:30 p.m., “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

2. Structured

Millennials crave structure. Many started in structured soccer at the age of three and grew up with parent-arranged “play dates.” No other generation has grown up with this much structure. As a result, Millennials continue to yearn for structure within their careers. Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for “participation trophies,” but rather, want to compare how their results stack up to the developed competencies for their position. They expect structured sales processes from which they can learn, master, and be measured against.

3. Flexible

Millennials prefer to learn from a variety of channels and formats: e-learning, mobile video, virtual classrooms, and podcasts should be used alongside direct coaching and instructor-led, in-person training.  A comprehensive curriculum that leverages a variety of these formats engages Millennials more effectively, resulting in greater retention of training concepts.

4. Personalized

Millennials have been told they are special. Perhaps by their parents, but definitely by the data-driven, hyper-personalized business world around them. As the most digital savvy generation to enter the workforce, they have an unconscious expectation that onboarding programs will be personalized as well. Companies can meet that expectation by beginning the onboarding process with an objective assessment, creating a Personal Learning Portal (PRP) and converting to a customized curriculum as outlined above.

5. Interactive

Millennials have grown up with control and continuous feedback … so it’s no wonder that interactive learning appeals to this generation. They crave a learning environment where they can interact with their coaches, as well as collaborate with their peers. To start, we recommend push/pull learning. A simple example would be to “push” a series of objections to the millennial learner and ask them to effectively handle the objection by video recording their response through their smartphone (see process graphics below). Statistics show that the millennial will practice their response 5.6 times before sending.  The manager then either prompts the learner to do it again or grades the response and enters the results into their Personalized Learning Portal.

  • Manager/Coach pushes a video objection to the salesperson/learner
  • Learner receives the “push” learning exercise and begins recording their response on their laptop or smartphone
  • Learner records their response, reviews it and decides whether it is good enough to send “average learner discards approximately five practice tries before sending best effort)
  • Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to: Prompt for new response and Grade conversation
  • Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP.

6. Stimulating

Content is everything and Millennials want to understand the “why” and connect training exercises to real-world application. Therefore, you must stress the real-world benefits of each learning experience. Let them know what they can expect to take away from their time investment, such as the skills they will develop, and how it applies to real-world challenges.

7. Social

Given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc., it’s safe to say that millennial learners thrive in social environments. They are comfortable collaborating with one another and have no problem sharing personal experiences with their peers.  They place a high value on social currency (i.e., “Likes”), which is a different kind of motivational force than money.  As such, leaders who make a point to single out someone’s practice video (see No. 5) and share it on a company “Knowledge Web” will not only help other employees learn from their peers, but also motivate the employee who created the practice video to continue their good work.

While embracing the needs of the Millennial generation may seem complex, we believe that the maxim “progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection” applies. There are two types of companies we see competing in the war for talent:

  1. Those who complain about it
  2. Those who are doing something about it

At Butler Street, we specialize in developing comprehensive learning curriculum for your sales, recruiting and customer service organizations leveraging a wide variety of formats and incorporating into a best-in-class Learning Management System (LMS). It starts with our Comprehensive Learning Assessment. Click CONTACT to learn more.

Click here to read PI Blogger Bill Farquharson’s recent blog post on Millennial Sales Speak

How ADP Is Netting Big Leads With Twitter and LinkedIn

Business process outsourcing (BPO) provider ADP is leading the way in creating leads and sales with social media prospecting. ADP’s sales force is using social media to discover and then solve prospects’ problems in ways that break down barriers and bypass those doggone gatekeepers. Once they’ve broken though the noise salespeople are quickly moving the discussion off of social media-DIS-engaging. Here’s how they’re doing it and how you can do the same.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) provider ADP is leading the way in creating leads and sales with social media prospecting. ADP’s sales force is using social media to discover and then solve prospects’ problems in ways that break down barriers and bypass those doggone gate-keepers. Once they’ve broken though the noise sales people are quickly moving the discussion off of social media DIS-engaging. Here’s how they’re doing it and how you can do the same.

ADP’s sales staff is getting more first-time meetings, more often, by giving prospects distinct reasons to invite them in for a presentation. They’re proving themselves as being worthy of consideration by giving prospects a high degree of confidence in their ability to offer value.

Breaking Through Barriers with LinkedIn and Twitter
Doug Plourd is a major accounts sales executive at ADP who is successfully using LinkedIn for business leads. Yes, his approach uses a relatively new social platform (LinkedIn) to research key decision makers but how Plourd is netting leads and accounts isn’t new at all.

He also is using Twitter—another relatively new social platform. Yet, again, the reason Twitter is so effective at generating new business leads for him is not technical nor new.

Plourd is using relatively new, “social” tools in combination with a very old, effective idea.

Solving problems for customers.


In the above 2 minute video you’ll hear how Mr. Plourd is gaining access to key decision influencers and decision makers by:

1. Listening for his prospect to express a pain he could remedy (or a scratch he can itch)

2. Acting—actually proving that he can provide relief to the prospect; thus, transferring confidence to him/her

3. Asking for the appointment (the opportunity to demonstrate his ability to eliminate other, related business pains)

None of the above ideas are new and that’s precisely the point. Don’t let all the hype-and-spin of social media marketing get you off-track. Yes, the digital tools are changing rapidly but what works is not revolutionizing sales and marketing despite all the bluster!

Give Customers & Prospects Confidence with Social
The best way to get more business appointments with social media is to avoid what most “experts” claim works. Trying to grab attention on Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and Twitter won’t work. Instead, the best way to earn appointments is to exploit social media’s greatest strength: Its ability to create emotional response.

Do you want to start using LinkedIn for business leads? Start giving your prospects the confidence they need as buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger—fully equipped to do what they want to do. Talk more with you about buying!

Turn Your Customers Into Your Best Salespeople

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Enabling satisfied customers to spread the word takes a combination of the right messaging and some careful listening to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable opportunities for positive online word-of-mouth. Empower your brand advocates by devoting attention to these four specific areas:

1. A great customer experience. Certain customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a brand. (This holds true whether they’re B-to-C or B-to-B customers.) Naturally, the first step is to offer a great product or service. Then start paying attention to who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help you locate enthusiastic customers online. Make them prime targets for engagement.

Don’t wait for the active few, go after the silent majority, too. The primary reason most customers don’t share good news about brands they do business with is because they’re never asked. After every appropriate interaction — and without being creepy or becoming a nag — invite your customers to participate in product reviews, experience surveys, customer forums or just plain telephone calls as part of “executive outreach sessions.” Use the channel that the customer used, whether it’s SMS, social, email or retail.

2. Loyalty. Customers willing to share their positive experiences with your brand are well worth your time and resources. Once you’ve found these happy customers, invest in them to create a loyal following. You can’t underestimate the power of simply thanking customers for their business.

In addition, keep your database up to date and integrated with your segmentation and campaign management tools. Update customer profiles to include recognition of brand advocacy and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. In other words, don’t spam. Just because you can email a brand advocate on her birthday, before holidays and whenever her favorite item is on sale doesn’t mean your messages will be welcome.

Track response rates over time so you can optimize message frequency and timing. While many of your loyal customers will be happy to receive lots of notices from you, never assume their interest. One of our retail clients recently found that a whopping 10 percent of their most loyal customers had marked their email messages as spam in the past year. When the retailer reached out to these customers via other channels to find out why, it learned that the email messages were too frequent and not specific to the interests of those customers. Don’t risk upsetting or annoying your customers to the point of complaints. Listen to the response data you have and back off when necessary.

3. A platform to promote. Help your brand advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. They’re multichannel, so think across channels too. Engage them via email, your website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive customer experiences online.

Is your company blog comment friendly? Do you provide a timely response to mentions of your brand on Twitter? Are you using clickstream and email data to inform your personas and segmentation? Does your website provide easy access to contact information for customer service and social media accounts? Present a seamless approach across all platforms — both traditional and digital — so that your messaging is consistent and credible.

4. Pull your head out of the sand. There are dozens of examples every month of brands that tried to ignore negative social commentary or got “shamed” for suppressing negative comments on Facebook. Nestle, for example, battled with Greenpeace supporters who voiced their concerns over the company’s use of palm oil. Rather than listening and engaging with concerned consumers, Nestle created a wealth of bad PR for itself by deleting posts and snapping back at fans. Similarly, Pfizer agitated consumers by deleting Facebook posts that suggested one of its viral video campaigns may be sexist.

If you’re going to listen and respond to social data, you must accept and engage with consumers who don’t agree with your positions or didn’t have a good brand experience. Like all battles of public opinion, the trick is to empower your advocates to respond to your detractors while providing a fact-based, reasonable platform for thoughtful discussion.

Brand advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. Now their voices can be amplified even more via social media networks. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful sales force. Put marketing automation and integration tools to work and you’ll be able to find your satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even more with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.