Hey Managers and Leaders of Gen Z, now what?

In this 3rd and final article on our research regarding Gen Z in sales, we focus particularly on what it is we as ‘The Managers’ need to change in order to recruit, manage and develop Gen Z Sales talent more effectively.

Here is a recap of our recent findings in the first two articles:

  1. There is a significant absence or lack of acceptance on RED (Motivation system for Decisiveness, Power, Action orientation) with Gen Z Sales candidates. Gen Z where is your Red?
  2. The biggest allergy or Rejection (-/-) of Gen Z Salespeople is also on RED. Meaning that pushing harder for actions or deadlines has a counter effect.

In our most recent article (Hey Gen Z we found your Red) we highlighted a number of ways for what one could do to hire, manage and develop Gen Z salespeople more effectively.

At SalesStep we know that it is not only important to look at the skills and sales attitudes, but also at the motivational drives: what things in our work give us energy because we like them, and what costs us energy because we want to stay away from them? We use the Graves model with the following five colours: Yellow (logic/creativity) Green (people orientation/communication) Orange (result orientation/winning) Blue (structure/risk management) and Red (power/decision making).

Motivational Drives from Graves Model

Now, let’s have a look at the population of Sales and Business Managers. Do we have any research data on their Motivation systems? Are their differences that arise between Sales/Business Managers and Gen Z in sales? What can we learn or adopt from this information?

Here we analysed the average score on RED (Acceptance + & Rejection -/-[WA3] [JKW4] ) for Business & Sales Managers. These are the results:

As anticipated, we see a significant difference between the score on the positive RED+ (Acceptance) with a score of 39% higher compared to that of the Starter Profile. This means that typically Business & Sales Managers have a noteable higher drive to come into action, make decisions, set priorities and exhibit a far higher conflict avoidance.

Also worth noting are the differences on RED -/- (Rejections) between the Starter profile and Business/Sales Managers is far less significant. This could be a clear indication that Sales and Business Managers themselves also do not like to be pushed or micro-managed by their shareholders or business directors. Although this is to a lesser (15%) extent than that of the Gen Z cohort (Starters)

Given these distinctions on Motivation profiles of Gen Z in Sales (Starters) versus Gen X (Business and Sales managers), first we should acknowledge that we cannot simply change an entire generation. We need to adopt our approach, management and motivation style to fit more with Gen Z ideals, whether we like it or not.

The final piece of this research conducted by SalesStep was to investigate the differences between the Business Managers (SalesStep Business Profile) and Sales Managers.

Here, something remarkable was discovered

When comparing the motivation system RED between Sales and Business Managers we see a considerable difference both on the acceptance of RED (38%) as well as on the rejection of RED (-40%).

It makes sense right? Business Managers (should) have a higher priority and tendency to push for results, actions and decision making compared to Sales Managers.

Given the results, we asked Business Manager, Peter van Hemert ; to share his thoughts on the findings. Peter van Hemert is the Vice President of Sales at Corpay -a leading global payment provider for businesses. Here is what he had to say:

RED behaviour, both on RED+ as well as RED-, continues to be perceived negatively. Whereas getting things in motion is a crucial part of a company’s success. If we all aim to only reach goals, seen in the much-liked ORANGE colour, we will never move the company from A to B in the desired pace. Because what is there to reach (ORANGE) if you haven’t kicked off something in the first place (RED), right?

From my point of view, making employees feel responsible for their task and go beyond what they would normally do (make the most out of every day) requires clear communication, people management skills and a clear structure around agreements and deadlines; alignment of what good look like. This will more and more be reflected in other colours such as green, blue and even yellow as flexibility and creativity are also needed.

This does mean we tend to shy away from the RED. The allergy that we see on RED- is, in my view, simply the desire from all of us to be treated with respect and not one directionally being told to do what someone else wants you to do. But if the heat is one, employees will still very much appreciate the leader to take the lead and show red behaviour.

The paradox of this all is that we need RED+ behaviour and we want to see it in others if it benefits us. At the same time, Gen Z (Starters), feel the world is at their feet and they do have a lot to “demand”, even when they just start their professional career.

But maybe over time, they will grow into that leader that does show RED+ behaviour and in turn will complain about not enough RED in the generation/starters at that moment in time?

Let’s cherish RED+ behaviour and reward employees displaying this, using a mix of other colours in the Motivational Drives.

So, what do we learn from all these valuable insights?


  1. The higher the role in the organisation, the higher the scores on the +RED and lower the scores -/-RED
  2. The gap (both -/-RED and +RED) is the biggest between Business Managers and Starters Gen Z in Sales
  3. Sales Managers on their turn also have a gap regarding +RED and -/-RED towards the Business Managers and Gen Z salespeople.
  4. Sales Managers also require to be kept into action while not being pushed harder or micro-managed.


5)    Adaptation in our approach towards Sales Starters (Gen Z in Sales) should start right at the top (business responsibility level) of the organisation.

6)    The crucial Sales Management layer who currently has the responsibility to hire, manage and develop Starters in sales also needs to adopt and change its motivation and management style.

7)    In addition, the Sales Management layer also needs constant attention and to be kept in motion/action by the Business Management layer.

In all probability, this is not the great news many business leaders expected and wanted to hear. Most of the leaders we speak to, expect their middle (sales) management to execute their strategic plans and to reach their targets without constant nurturing and guidance. Unfortunately, our research displays the opposite…

Hey Gen Z, we have found your RED! However…

In this article we elaborate on our latest research on the motivational drives of Gen Z in Sales. Our article that was published on March 6, shared insights on the lack or absence of the Acceptance on the Red motivational drive. This unfortunately, means that when hiring and developing Sales Talent from Gen Z, other types of Leadership and management styles are required.

Starter Profile Motivation Drives of Gen Z

Moreover, this also triggered another vital question: What about Gen Z biggest REJECTION* or allergy? And here is what we found using the data set from same population:

Let’s first review the results of our research on the motivational drives of Gen Z.

Average scores of motivational drives of Gen Z

Here we clearly see that RED (power, decisiveness, priority) has the lowest score of the 5 positive motivation systems (ACCEPTANCES) that we investigated. While Creativity and Result orientation are the most preferred motivation systems of Gen Z in Sales.

When we analysed the results for REJECTIONS on the same 5 motivational drives, we discovered an abundance of RED. This time, RED turned out to be the biggest Rejection or allergy of Gen Z.

Rejections are negative motivational drives. Things you rather postpone or that cost you energy. Allergies are typically energy drains.

In our research team we have Jan-Kees Walrave (owner MyMotivationInsights.nl) and Marque Draijer (Drayer); Psychologist, coach & facilitator who are experts in understanding and interpreting motivational drives and thus these results. We asked Jan-Kees and Marque to explain and to provide some examples of Allergies on RED:

What does this mean, where does this come from, and how can we best manage this?

Jan-Kees Walrave:

When using red in your sales management style, sales leaders usually come across as strong, dominant, hierarchical people. They use their experience, knowledge, and convincing leadership style to instruct the new generation: ‘Just listen to me, do exactly as I say’. This is quite often the exact style that they have been managed through when they started in their own sales roles. Since the red management style is focusing on speed and decisiveness, there is little room for discussion, let alone inclusiveness in the decision-making process.

From the Gen Z perspective, they see this management style as controlling, the manager as micro-managing or too dominant. From their own preference, they like to be included in the process (green) and would like to make sure all alternatives are considered (yellow) before a decision is made.

So, if RED doesn’t motivate Gen Z on the positive side while also RED turns out to be the biggest allergy on the negative side, what does this mean for us? And how should we as Gen X managers manage this paradigm with Gen Z in sales? Here are three best practice examples:

Marque Draijer:

1. The quickest road to success in this case is to stimulate the colors that are clearly providing a positive motivation to Gen Z salespeople. For instance, Orange that drives Result Orientation or Yellow that drives Creativity or Green that drives People orientation and team building. An example of this is to define and agree results collectively (team targets). Whereby the whole team (Green) being successful (Orange) in fast decision making and quick action (Combining Orange and Red). Doing this, will create chances to explore new opportunities (Yellow) and result (Orange) of course without being dominant (assumingly the Red element that annoys Gen Z)

2. Another best practice example is the deployment of another ancient management tool called Sales Activity Management or SAM. The SAM management methodology is a great tool to provide Gen Z salespeople with the insights in what and how much activities they need to reach their goals. The SAM model is all about translating your Sales goals into activities that need to be planned and prepared. The main benefit of SAM is that Gen Z sales people themselves discover and develop the insights of what it and how much activities they need to do in order to achieve their goals and targets.

Example Sales Activity Management Sheet

3. Finally, you could consider the deployment regular Call Battles to keep your Gen Z sales team in action mode. Call battles are short regular events that drives actions on customer engagement. That can be either on acquisition or on customer engagement (service). By scheduling call battles, Gen Z salespeople are regularly automatically put into action and reminded to prepare their calls and meetings. It is recommended to make these call battle events competitive and to award prices for the winners. (Orange rewards)

Conclusion and recommendation:

The motivation profile of Gen Z in Sales is forcing us as Gen X, to apply other managerial techniques and tools to manage, develop and motivate them successfully. Given these three examples or management techniques that are worthwhile to explore and experiment, we’d like to ask you to share some other thoughts about Gen Z management in sales.

We are looking forward.


Douglas Huissen

Hey Gen Z, where’s your RED?

I’m receiving an increasing number of questions and anecdotes about Gen Z in sales. It seems they are different; they possess different motivators and deal with pressure and failure in a very different manner.

But is that true? That’s why in November 2023, we launched SalesStep Starter; our youngest profile specifically designed for selecting the right sales talent without any relevant sales experience. After 3 months and 586 profiles, we finally have some data to support or reject our feeling.

SalesStep Starter Dashboard

Here is our latest research: An important part of assessing the proper role-fit of a candidate with a vacancy is  to focus on the Motivational Drives profile of that candidate. Within SalesStep, we have adopted the model of CW Graves to provide us with insights into 5 different motivational drives.

  1. For sales roles, we always look for enough ORANGE. Is this candidate motivated by booking results and being recognized for success
  2. Yellow is perceived as very supportive of Orange since when a salesperson fails or is rejected by a customer, some creativity might be handy to overturn that emotion or decision.
  3. RED is even more crucial for salespeople than yellow! Sales requires POWER to ask for a deal or to challenge the customer. Also, RED feeds decisiveness and helps you prioritize and make sure you stay in action mode.

Regarding the rejections for salespeople (the colours with -/-), we see very often huge allergies in Sales to RED and BLUE. RED means an allergy to micro-managers, additional external pressure, or dominant managers.

So, let’s have a look at the results of our test pool of Gen Z regarding their motivational drives:

Motivation scores of Gen Z (Acceptance - Dr CW Graves)

As you can see clearly, the least important drive to Gen Z is RED. In our test group of sales candidates, their biggest motivators are Yellow and Orange (fortunately). However, what does this lack of RED mean? This means that Gen Z is not self-starting, not proactive, struggles to set priorities, and is conflict-avoidant. And that comes as a huge surprise to us all. Lacking RED means, whether you like it or not, you will constantly have to put your salespeople into action and remind them about their priorities. Gen Z appears not to be self-starting and thus may easily develop a more reactive pro-activeness.

Sorry about the bad news. So, what can we recommend?:

1.     Look harder for candidates that do possess enough RED (often outside Europe or with a migration background).

2.      Hire and develop more mentoring sales managers (schoolteachers).


But we are also keen to understand your experience and remedies. Therefore, our questions:

1.     Do you recognize these results in practice?

2.     What remedies do you have in place to tackle the absence of RED?