It is estimated that today millennials (those born between about 1980 and 2000) comprise half of the American workforce, and by 2025, will be 75% of the global workforce. For sales leaders, that means working with sales reps who have particular interests and values, sometimes different to the leader’s own generation.
My guest in this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast is Rakhi Voria, Director, IBM Global Digital Sales Development. Rakhi has a strong passion for advancing women in sales and millennials in business and regularly shares her thoughts on these topics by speaking at conferences and writing publications in Forbes as a member of the Forbes Business Development Council.
At IBM, Rakhi Voria manages the team responsible for the strategy, implementation, and revenue of the Digital Sales Development (DSD) function globally. Within the DSD sales force, there are ~350 Digital Development Representatives and Business Development Representatives responsible for driving client engagement, deal progression, and closure of select deals.
Rakhi previously worked at Microsoft and most recently served as the Chief of Staff to the Corporate Vice President of WW Inside Sales, where she played a key role in building a new digital sales force for Microsoft, growing the team to 2,000 digital sellers globally and the business to over $5B in under 3 years.
She currently serves as Executive Co-Chair of Women@IBM NYC, which is focused on attracting, retaining, and advancing women.
Join our conversation as Rakhi shares some advice for sales leaders and executives who want to attract and work with millennials, especially in the current remote selling environment.How to Attract Millennials to your Sales Organization
Many companies are trying to attract millennial talent based on some preconceived notions such as they like environments with free snacks and nap pods. But many studies show that is very low in their list of priorities.
According to Rakhi, the top three things millennials value most in the workplace are:1. Diversity in the workplace
Millennials care a lot about people, even more than the work itself. An IBM report showed that what they look for in a job is the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people, from backgrounds, age, perspectives, industry hires, interns.2. Variety and experiences in their careers
Millennials are called “the job-hopping generation” for a reason. They want to differentiate their experiences and take on horizontal challenges, while still growing vertically. For example, they like to work in marketing, sales, finance and not necessarily follow a linear career path.
For millennials, new experiences are very important, as is the ability to travel. Companies that can provide those experiences will attract many millennials.
How can sales leaders invest in rotational programs or opportunities to give millennials the chance to build different skill sets across different functions?
Variety in experience doesn’t mean you have to give employees a different job, just added responsibilities according to their skills or interests. For example, at Vengreso, our Sales Coordinator is also an accomplished YouTuber, who uses his video production skills to create sales enablement content and training videos for the sales team.3. Flexibility
The Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that 75% of millennials actually want the ability to work from home or somewhere other than their office.
In fact, they care more about workplace flexibility than getting promoted.
Millennials feel they are more productive when they work from home and a place that is more comfortable than an office cubicle.
However, flexibility goes beyond the where you work and includes the how and the when. For instance, the ability to take a couple of hours off during the afternoon and not having to be tied to a desk is very important.
A study by ManPower Group on Millennial Careers discovered that flexibility is in the top five priorities of millennials when looking for a job. Here are the top five:Career Advice for Millennials
Rakhi offers two tips for millennials who are trying to navigate the career journey.1. Be open to possibilities
The first tip is to expand their vision and not narrowly focus on one career path.
“I see so many people who are thinking this is the next job that I want and they choose a specific job and they put all of their sights on it,” Rakhi says. “And it closes them off to so many other possibilities. When you're that early in your career, you probably don't know what you really want to do.”
Instead, it is better to set goals not on a particular job but on the skills they want to have. As a sales leader with millennials in your team, you can coach them to gain experience in sales while keeping an open mind about their future.2. Leverage your unique skills
Being young and sometimes inexperienced can be hard when starting a career in sales or in any industry. Selling to clients that are older and more experienced than them, can feel intimidating for millennial sales reps.
Rakhi says that early in her career she had imposter syndrome. “I was sitting at tables with people who had far more experience than me, many of which were men. I was young, I was female, I was diverse. And I basically said, ‘I am a millennial so maybe I can push some of these people to think a little bit differently to invent new processes to innovate, to push the needle.’ I've been doing that here at IBM as well as a newbie.”
Young sales professionals should have the courage to challenge their sales manager, sales leader and even the CEO of the company to innovate and think differently, as well as their peers.
Listen to the episode as Rakhi shares her formula for networking within IBM to make herself known within the company at different levels.How to Train Millennial Sellers
Millennials are also known as the technology generation, and because of that, their attention span is much shorter than the span of previous generations.
That’s why as a sales leader, anytime you're coaching millennials, you must tell them what they need to know up front, including how they're going to be measured.
Sales leadership must communicate:
“We are an ambitious generation,” Rakhi says. “We want to make sure that we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. And so to know upfront what some of those things are is really helpful.”Provide Feedback
A second suggestion for sales leadership is to provide praise and coaching and feedback along the way.
Millennials want frequent specific, strategic feedback. They want to know how they are doing in comparison to their peers and specific feedback they can actually use to develop and grow in the sales career.
It is then the responsibility of the leader or the sales manager to provide feedback on a regular basis.Virtual Sales Training
And the final suggestion is to use technology to deliver the training. According to Gallup's research on how millennials want to live and work, 85% of millennials access the Internet from their phones, which is more than all other generations.
“If we can't offer training that can be accessed from anywhere,” Rakhi says, “if you could only do it when you're on premises, your organization is not great for millennials. If you can't do it on your phone. That's not great.”Women in Sales and Sales Leadership
Rakhi is passionate about promoting women in sales. She fell into sales by accident when she got a job at Microsoft and felt she had to help more women get into sales.
Here are some statistics that show how women are misrepresented in sales:
CEOs and recruiters must be focused and intentional in finding candidates and filling sales positions not only with women, but Black and Latino women.
Rakhi says most job descriptions for sales roles are worded in such a way that discourage women and minorities from applying, perpetuating the sales profession as a white male dominated field. For example, she has seen sales job posts that list a “competitive sports background” as a desired skill. And unfortunately, women tend not to apply for positions where they don’t fit 100% of the requirements (versus men, who apply when they meet 60% of the requirements).
So, how can companies increase the number of women in sales?
If you are a sales leader in charge of attracting and training millennials, you can’t miss this episode of the Modern Selling Podcast with Rakhi Voria.Outline of This Episode