Hashtag surprise: Millennials make great sales managers
Hashtag surprise: Millennials make great sales managers
09 AUGUST 2017 7:27 AM

Not sold on the value millennials can bring to your organization? Consider how their unique skill set makes them ideal sales managers. 

Read on if you are over 37 … and are looking for great sales managers in your hotels: Consider millennials—that much maligned, misunderstood and misrepresented cohort. And, oh by the way, they currently make up approximately one third (more than 50 million individuals) of today’s workforce, and that eye-opening figure is projected to reach up to 75% of all workers by 2025.

So don’t let your age prevent you from taking advantage of the best talent pool for your hotel. Read on to break through your stereotypes and understand this outstanding opportunity to increase your sales. Here are five key facts you should know about millennials:

Millennials are famously fond of texting, preferring it over talking on the phone. I’ve heard otherwise intelligent people suggest this means that they are void of all social graces. But times and technologies change, and social norms evolve. The iPhone is only 10 years old. Progression is about efficiency. It is much more efficient, for example, to progress to automatic exchanges and a direct phone connection then to require a switchboard operator to manually route telephone calls. Progress marches on, and we continue to find new ways to save time. Viewed through that lens, it becomes clear that texting is simply about efficiency. Ask any millennial about communicating through texts and you will hear some version of, “I can get my question answered in 60 seconds rather than six minutes—if it gets answered at all.”

Texting, they are quick to point out, gives them more control over their communication. “I can look at that when it makes sense for me, not when it makes sense for you.” Some may say that is selfish, but look at it through the prism of efficiency. If my millennial sales manager is in the middle of finalizing a contract when the phone rings, and the voice on the other end of the line is a mother of the bride whose wedding is 11 months away and she wants to know if they can change from the salmon to the trout, wouldn’t they be more efficient to finish the contract they were working on (and the other three they have in queue) and then respond to the mother of the bride about her fish dish? Is that being selfish or being efficient?

Why does any of this matter? Because learning to open our minds to millennials’ fresh perspectives and unique contributions is important, particularly in our industry, where millennials are a significant—and rapidly growing—component of the workforce. Not only are our employees millennials, but our customers are, too. And really, who better to understand the preferences and communication styles of those younger guests than millennials themselves?

Dismissing millennials can have real consequences. We just had a situation in one of our large city center hotels where two young (very young) women were making the buying decision for a $260,000 conference. They told us about the hotel they had toured prior to visiting ours, and about the unfortunate encounter they had with the sales manager at that property. The sales manager discounted them, repeatedly (and insultingly) asking to connect with the “decisionmaker.” As it turns out, of course, they were the decisionmakers and they unsurprisingly wanted nothing to do with the out-of-touch Gen X sales manager who had demonstrated that he was unlikely to understand the dynamics of the millennial, social-media-savvy, software lead-gen sales training program they were trying to book. They dropped her hotel from the request for proposal process.

If new ideas, demographic trends and cautionary tales aren’t enough to convince you, consider the following reasons why millennials are ideally suited to work in our industry:

They are social butterflies
Millennials are heavily engaged in different social media platforms, and they are more likely than other generations to have their buying decisions informed by “influencers.” In our business, where some of our most lucrative (and most cost-efficient) business comes through referrals, individuals who are naturally inclined to share (and value) the ideas of others are an ideal fit. This really isn’t about a new app or a new technology, this is about shared perspectives on travel, hotels and experiences that resonate and become relevant through reviews—both informal and otherwise. Those places and experiences that are highly social media “worthy” can become highly influential fast. Millennials instinctively get that. This is the world they have grown up in, and they know that a few well-timed and free social media posts can elevate a single “referral” into something that reaches tens of thousands.

They are nomads
Millennials love travel. They want to try new things, and enrich their lives with the broadest possible range of destinations. It’s not uncommon to hear from millennials who wouldn’t consider “settling down” before they were at least 40. The hotel business offers that. Brands, management companies, chains and brand families all offer positions that give you the ability to live a fairly nomadic, travel-heavy lifestyle, and collect a great paycheck to support that lifestyle.

They value experiences more than things
As a group, millennials place a great deal of value on experiences. Many want the greatest possible diversity of experiences they can find, and they won’t hesitate to pay a little more, go a little farther, or spend a little extra time seeking them out. They don’t want to do the same thing every day—they want to be part of multiple areas of influence. Here again, our industry offers plenty of opportunities to scratch that experiential itch.

They are negative toward authority
One word of caution with millennials: The voice of authority looks different. Millennials tend to view authority figures more like a coach and less like a boss. They expect and often receive a steady stream of positive feedback, and hotel employers would be wise to keep that in mind. A little positive energy goes a long way. Millennials are also accustomed to receiving instantaneous gratification. A tweet or a photo on Instagram may get a flood of responses in seconds. Waiting for an annual performance review just isn’t going to cut it. If you want the best out of your millennial, consistent communication is key. Coach them, don’t discipline. Remember that they not only appreciate more options and flexibility, they expect it. Accordingly, they are quicker to “swipe right” to explore a new job opportunity if there is a disconnect in their current situation. Given the talent, energy and innovation in this demographic, losing a quality employee because of a generational misunderstanding would be a real waste. It might even have just lost your team their next great sales manager!

Steve Van, president and CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts, founded the Dallas-based company in 1983. He serves on a number of industry boards, including the Hilton Doubletree Hotel Owner’s Advisory Council, and also served on the Starwood Hotels Owner’s Advisory Council for the creation of Aloft Hotels. Since 2008, he has been a founding director of AHMSA, a nonprofit based in Bogota, Columbia, that teached internal refugees entrepreneurial skills to lift their families out of poverty. Among many other accolades, he was the youngest director of NATO’s U.S. Arm, the Atlantic Treaty Assembly, and was presented with the Vincentian Ethics Scholar Award in 2006 in recognition of his valuable contributions in fostering business ethics research. He also co-founded the Texas Lyceum Association.

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