Can Millennials Social Sell or Just Socialize?

Millennials have been a tremendous addition to the workplace. They know how to aggressively multi-task. Technology is a snap for them. They’re all about self-service and can find the answer to many questions without interacting with a human because their internet skills are so on point. When they do interact, it’s with their social network which is as responsive as they are – always on. At the same time, they have a confidence about their abilities that is often unjustified.  This post is a reflection on sales (not just millennials) and how generational gaps could be leveraged as an opportunity for driving revenue in your organization.

So when the topic of social selling comes up, we naturally think that Millennials are a perfect fit. They are great with technology and know how to do this in their sleep. Or do they?

They DO live and die by social. They have Twitter accounts. They do stories on Snapchat and watch to see who watched. They all left Facebook when their moms and dads joined and right now, they’re on the next app that we don’t even know about. And it goes without saying that they’re dominating the dating apps.

But here’s the reality. To be successful at social selling it helps to have a rich, well-cultivated network. A typical Millennial’s network includes their college friends and their co-workers (also all Millennials for the most part).

It’s crazy impressive how Millennials have built monolithic social networks. Many have 10K followers on Instagram, but only 240 on LinkedIn. Here is where we see the potential. If they can convert their skills from social to business social, we can drive revenue for our organizations.

So who has this type of network? Our seasoned salespeople do (yes, Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers, etc.). It’s critical that Millennials expand their networks by partnering with the veterans.  The collaboration of the generations will produce a network effect that drives business.

(We also need our veterans to incorporate social selling into their daily behavior…..but that’s a whole other topic.)

With social selling —which is simply another channel like email, phone or face-to-face — you win more as a trusted thought leader. The challenge for Millennials is that they simply haven’t been in business long enough. They need to learn the fundamentals and fail. Those putting in the work now will be thought leaders for the future, and I’ve worked with a number of them.

One last challenge I’ve observed is their enthusiasm. They are wildly confident and ready to chase down opportunities. They send LinkedIn Inmails asking for a meeting when they haven’t provided value, let alone gotten a warm connection.  Do not get lazy when interacting with people, whether on the phone, in-person or via a social channel.

When I’ve seen this, I ask them ‘would you marry someone without going on a few dates first?’ This always elicits a laugh — turns out Millennials are delaying marriage longer than any generation in history (http://www.gallup.com/poll/191462/gallup-analysis-millennials-marriage-family.aspx).

Here a few things that will help Millennials (and everyone) improve their Sales Skills:

  1. Reflect. This may be your first sales job so it’s important to reflect and decide if you’re cut out to be a salesperson.  It’s not an easy job and it’s not for everyone. Maybe you do something really well that very few others can’t and that thing ISN’T sales. That’s okay. It’s better to find out now and make a move that will leave you happier in the end.
  2. Get customer-centric. Provide value to your customer at every touch and you’ll be successful. While commissions are great, doing the right thing is always the right thing, so stay focused on your customer.
  3. Establish trust and have patience – we’ll get there with this approach. All of us.

Millennials have a few things to learn to ramp on the social selling game, but this is a point-in-time perspective. They will all get better as they develop their overall sales skills and this requires more game time than they’ve had.  One thing to remember: it is not this OR that – it is this AND that.  Organizations need to build strategies that leverage the strengths of their employees, not expose their weaknesses.  Pretty soon (in fact it is already happening), millennials are going to be our buyers. And it will be interesting to see what types of interactions that new buying community mandates.

Thank you to Kathryn Bassman for collaborating with me on this post as the editor!

Please let me know your feedback and view on social selling for the generations.

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