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Millennials are loyal to the bigger picture. They will help you get what you want if you help them get what they want. But first, you need to know more about what motivates them.


As a young salesperson, I was hungry for any and every tool that might boost my sales performance. Xerox provided us with great sales training, but I also jumped at every opportunity to listen to the late Zig Ziglar.

This famous quote has stuck with me through the years: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

This is one of the bedrock principles of business. To reach your goals, help others reach their own.

Wise sales leaders know this is true when they interact with their customers, but it’s also true when it comes to empowering emerging sales leaders to make their dreams come true.

Some people will argue that Millennials already have everything they want. It is often said that they are lazy, self-centered, and unmotivated.

They want everything handed to them on a silver platter, or they don’t want it at all. Some go so far as to say Millennials couldn’t care less about helping their employer meet their long-term goals.

Respectfully, I disagree.

The vast majority of Millennials are merely motivated in different ways than previous generations.

For example, according to Gallup study, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” 91 percent of Millennials aspire to leadership, 79 percent want a coach or mentor not a boss, 72 percent want constant feedback on how they are doing, and 64 percent want to make a lasting impact on the world.

What does all this mean? Millennials are loyal to the bigger picture. They will help you get what you want if you help them get what they want.

But first, you need to know more about what motivates them.

Motivation That Goes Beyond Compensation

Gone are the days when a fat paycheck motivates young sales leaders.

In our research and our on-going sales consulting work with clients, we’ve found that  74 percent of top-performing salespeople are highly motivated, although they tick differently. Let’s look at the three most common types of motivation.

  • Extrinsic – Motivated by external rewards, such as commissions, bonuses, prizes, and personal or professional status.
  • Intrinsic – Motivated by internal rewards, such as satisfaction, dedication to the work, and fidelity to a higher purpose.
  • Altruistic – Motivated by a concern for others, choosing service before self.

How you create a motivational culture is going to depend heavily on each one’s motivation preference.

Here are some of the types of questions we ask when helping sales leaders gather motivational insights on their sales team:

  • Do you love to win, or do you hate to lose? Both equally?
  • How do you like to be recognized?
  • How do you need to be challenged?
  • Do you care more about serving or winning?

Based on the objective data from the assessment, you will learn how your sales leader is uniquely wired. Only then can you chart a win-win performance plan.

Whether in business or baseball, a coach is someone who sees the best in people and draws out their best performance. As a coach-motivator, your job is to observe employee behavior, ask the questions listed above, and guide them to understand what drives them.

Motivation That Creates Synergy

Individual mentoring brings clarity about what your salesperson wants most out of life. You will both discover how that dovetails with your company’s vision, mission, and values. Create a synergistic culture where their desires overlap with your own. This will give you the fertile ground in which to cultivate a whole new motivational dynamic.

To capitalize on that synergy, here are three ideas:

  1. Help craft intentional goals

    Begin with everybody’s favorite acronym (SMART). Guide your emerging sales leader to develop Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based goals for the future. Reinforce those goals with strategic motivators:

    • Extrinsic motivator: work to identify financial rewards with milestone accomplishments.
    • Intrinsic motivator: discuss how to connect goals to their core values and aspirations.
    • Altruistic motivators: acknowledge the importance and find ways to serve others, both inside and outside the company.
  2. Follow goal-setting with a written action plan

    Break goals down into manageable chunks. Work with your emerging sales leader to accomplish this. Make sure to connect every mundane detail to the overall vision of the individual and the company. If you’re looking for a process to help break down a ten-year dream into rubber-meets-the-road daily behavior, check out our workbook, Energize Your Dreams.

  3. Work with your Millennial sales person to develop resilience

    Encourage your up-and-coming sales leader to discover and develop their Sisu Spirit—that unwavering resilience that forges ahead in the face of harsh opposition.

    It is an old Finnish term for which there is no substitute in the English language. A Sisu Spirit will help them draw on their internal resources for motivation in order to move towards their goals, even when the going gets tough.

    You can help them to:

    • Identify what they have learned from failure so that the perceived failure is transformed into a stepping stone towards success.
    • Stimulate obstacle-conquering thinking by using the word might in their questions. For example, What might I do to meet my goals?
    • Encourage them to stretch their comfort zone a little bit every single day.

“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”  — Zig Ziglar

Be intentional in motivating your Millennial sales leader in the way that works for them and keeps on doing it.

You’ll soon find that they are feeling terrific about their work, while also contributing greatly to your team’s success.

About the author

Danita Bye

Danita Bye

Danita Bye, M.A. is a leadership and sales development expert. She has successful sales…

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