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…

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