Managing The Millennials On Your Sales Team

Follow this proven five-step method to establish your role as leader of your sales team — regardless of their generation.


Sales management has always been a balancing act between supporting people to achieve more, and pushing them to go beyond what they think they are capable of. In today’s environment of motivating, encouraging and driving performance from the ‘so-called’ millennial generation, there is even more to balance.

Today’s millennials are an interesting blend of being super smart, intuitive, and demanding. Many feel they deserve more than they have perhaps earned yet – more money, a promotion, or even part ownership of the company after six months. You know, just like many of us did!

The bottom line is that in many ways millennials are not all that different from other generations, they are just more vocal about it. And good for them. I’m all for promoting, encouraging, and having people on my staff who feel they can do more.

When it comes to managing this part of the workforce, some interesting challenges emerge. Some managers try to fit in with the millennial group (or are even millennials themselves), and they try to lead by getting others to like them. Managers who do this frequently lose their ability to direct their teams because they are afraid of exercising authority for fear of alienating their team members.

The problem is that most managers and other figures of authority – directors, CEOs and even business owners — have never been taught how to properly exercise authority and command respect as leaders.

Related: Don’t Turn Your Sales Team Loose Without A Strategy

If you find yourself in this position, follow this proven, five-step method for exercising authority. It will not only get results, but it will establish, or re-establish, your role as leader of your sales team or department – regardless of their generation.

1. Make sure your instructions are clear

Having ambiguous goals, or methods of achieving them, automatically undermines your authority and dooms many projects from the beginning. Rule number one – be clear on the goal and the instructions on how to accomplish it. After you have delivered them, ask your team if they have any questions about what is required, so problems can be cleared up from the beginning.

2. Encourage people to approach you if they run into problems

Establishing open communication and feedback early on is crucial to avoid big disappointments later. Helping team members resolve problems as they arise ensures quick resolution, continued progress, and good morale.

3. Take action quickly when you learn of any real problems

Failing to act quickly once you learn of a problem, or putting it off for days or weeks, not only undermines your authority, but also kills morale and confidence. Problems tend to get bigger the longer they go unresolved, and your job as a leader is to solve problems, not avoid them.

Related: Get Your Sales Team Excited, Motivated And Ready To Succeed

4. Insist your team report all the news – good and bad

So many companies treat bad news like the plague. Sales teams are taught to ‘always be positive,’ but an attitude of ‘always be accurate and let’s find a way to succeed,’ is more productive (and realistic). In meetings and one-on-ones, your goal should be to motivate as well as problem solve. Always encourage your team to report all the news.

5. Use crises as an opportunity to develop people

You are a leader for a reason. Rather than shy away from a crisis (a big deal lost, unexpected bad news, major delay in delivery), teach your team members how to find opportunity in crises and how to grow as professionals and as people. Focus on the skills or attitudes that are needed to overcome the situation, and work with them to develop and strengthen them.

This five-step method of exercising authority is powerful and will establish you as a leader and as the ‘go to’ person in your company.