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?

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