It might seem strange, but for those of us in the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations, our kids have somehow suddenly become our co-workers and clients.

While we were going about our lives, the Millennial generation streamed into the workplace, quickly becoming the largest percentage of the workforce and securing more spending power than any other age group.

Their sheer numbers, growing percentage of leadership positions, and entrepreneurial spirit mean they have a significant impact on business development and sales. Ignore Millennial preferences and styles, and it will be at our own peril.

We know that Millennials bring new priorities, ideas, attitudes and buying behaviors; yet we often instruct them to do business the same way their parents were taught. It’s an exercise in futility – teaching outmoded skills to those who no longer embrace them.

Let’s take cold calling as an example. You know, the ancient practice of contacting people at random and hoping someone will buy. And if you didn’t close a sale, the manager pounded you to “Make more calls.”  Today, neither the Millennial salesperson nor the Millennial buyer has the appetite for such a practice. They value their time and ability to find information and make a purchase on their own terms and timeframe.

Sales managers have traditionally played the role of activity inspectors. They inspected the number of calls you made or how many people were in your sales pipeline.  Rather than this one-size-fits-all approach, Millennials respond better to being coached, mentored and encouraged to pursue an individual objective that is in tune with the company’s and their goals. In other words, they prefer to be treated as individuals.

The prize will go to the companies that understand how the Millennial generation thinks and acts.  This doesn’t mean that Millennials have all the answers, but they do have the most marbles and thus will be the biggest players and influencers.  Through proactive education and understanding, we can learn the best ways to reach out to, coach, reinforce and benefit from this next generation of leaders and colleagues.

Rich Lucia is president of Selling in The Now and a Business Development Specialist. He is a “turnaround” sales executive whose experience spans corporations, start-up companies and non-profits. (www.RichLucia.com)

Suzanne F. Kaplan, president of Talent Balance, is a top-rated speaker and leadership trainer. She specializes in “decoding” Millennials and solving multigenerational challenges for increased performance and profitability. (www.talent-balance.com)

They will be presenting on “Decoding Millennial Clients: Building Relationships for Business Growth” at The Union League Business Leadership Symposium on February 15, 2017 in Philadelphia.