It’s common knowledge that the generations present in today’s workforce, and specifically within sales teams, are evolving. A study conducted by EY highlights the current demographic reality: By 2025, millennials will represent 75 percent of the workforce. Karyn Twaronite, the EY Americas Inclusiveness Officer, says that “while it’s encouraging that millennials are expected to significantly grow their managerial skills by 2020, the onus is on companies to also give them equitable opportunities to gain the right mentors, sponsors, career experiences and training to capitalize on this optimism.”

Recent research on 100 companies and sales teams sought to understand, adapt to and capitalize on these demographic changes. For the most part, sales skills require real-time or simulated human interactions, which often demand that sellers learn skills through repetitive practice. Not surprisingly, this research showed that the most effective method of training occurs through active learning, such as simulations, case studies, and sales call observations with a manager or fellow seller. Here are a few additional key findings.

Reinforcement and Feedback

Across generations, sustained reinforcement and feedback from peers, managers or coaches is the most critical component for development in sales. For all sellers, feedback is critical in ensuring that seller actions remain in line with the preferred approach, be it successfully targeting prospects or prioritizing efforts. In some cases, this feedback comes directly from customers.

For millennial sellers, the immediacy of feedback is critical, as they are hungry to apply this new knowledge. Managers should minimize any delays in feedback as much as possible, since millennials are accustomed to having information on demand.


A significant buzzword over the past five years, this research confirms that when balanced with other forms of recognition (e.g., compensation, recognition and titles), offering sales professionals the ability to certify can be a powerful motivator. Include these opportunities in your learning and development toolkit, but don’t go overboard.

Rotational Developmental Programs

Many companies have found that the supply of experienced enterprise sales professionals is shrinking and have launched (or in some cases restarted) entry-level sales development programs. Technology firms, such as Workday, HPE, Oracle and SAP, as well as companies like National Gypsum, have created sales development programs focused on recruiting and developing new millennial hires by integrating technology, gamification and experiential learning opportunities through multiple levels, roles and responsibilities over the first 18 to 36 months.

Training Advisory Board

When it comes to tailoring training and development efforts based on generations, one of the best practices is implementing a training advisory board composed of people from each generation represented in the sales force. The training advisory board makes decisions on the training content covered, content design and content delivery channel, with the goal of meeting the needs of the multigenerational sales team.