There’s a youth movement afoot, and if you’re not on board with how to sell to younger buyers, you’re going to get run over by it. Purchasing power and corporate leadership is shifting. Most of the time, I hear salespeople and sales managers bellyaching about how “different” the “new generation” is in terms of their purchasing habits, rather than trying to figure out what those habits are and how to adapt our selling methods to them.
Younger buyers may have different buying habits than you’re used to, but they ARE buying, and what you don’t understand about trends in purchasing is costing you money. For the last couple of years, I’ve been talking to people at conferences who want nothing more to demystify the art and science of selling to younger buyers (for the purposes of this article, let’s just say that the dividing line between “younger” and “not younger” is 40). Well, I’m here to help. Let’s stop bellyaching and start learning.
The skill of selling to younger buyers can be summed up with 4 C’s: Concision, Connection, Collaboration, and Consideration.
- Concision: Concision is the art of being concise in your communication. One complaint I hear all the time is, “Troy, younger buyers just don’t want to talk to people in person and they don’t want to see salespeople!” Younger people are in face to face contact with other people all the time. We are social creatures, and that trait is not generational. However, younger buyers want you to get to the point – to be concise. A younger buyer doesn’t want to sit and talk football for 30 minutes before they discuss business. If you are in front of them, that means that you need to get to the point and give value for the time spent. Forget the old “fish on the wall” fake rapport tactics – you’ll get tossed out. Ask good questions and make to-the-point, targeted, individualized presentations that improves the buyer’s condition in the time you spend with them. Hack: Prepare five great questions about their business to open every new sales call.
- Connection: Younger people are the most connected generation(s) that the world has ever seen, and this is due of course to technology. It’s not unusual for younger people to have friends literally all over the world. Have they met all of those people face to face? Probably not – but through technology, they have fostered connections. That means that they have a larger business network than could have ever been dreamed of decades ago. That also means that they want to be connected with YOU. How much do you use LinkedIn? Hint – just putting up a rudimentary profile is not “using” LinkedIn. If you aren’t posting, commenting, and engaging with other people, they’ll see it. When you approach a younger buyer, they are likely to check you out on LinkedIn within 24 hours. If your presence is found wanting, you will be less likely to become a business connection to them. Staying off of business social media is an outdated strategy. Hack: Set your browser’s home page to LinkedIn, so that every day when you fire up the computer, it’s staring you right in the face. You’d be amazed at how much you can get done in 15 minutes a day.
- Collaboration: Studies show that the average buyer today has completed 57% of his or her buying process before ever seeing a sales rep. Younger people are researchers, and when they bring knowledge to a sales call, they expect it to be part of the conversation. More than that, they want to be active partners in the purchasing process – hence, collaboration. A salesperson who doesn’t respect the buyer’s journey is going to lose out. Worse, a salesperson to takes it upon themselves to explain to the buyer why everything they have learned is incorrect will mightily anger the buyer. When the younger buyer comes to the table, expect that buyer to be current on the offerings of your competitors and how they compare. Are YOU that current? Hack: One of the first questions you should ask a buyer is, “What have you done thus far in this purchasing process?”
- Current: There are still many salespeople out there who are technophobes. If that’s you, you are setting your own expiration date. Being “current” means being up to date on the technology that affects your customers’ buying process and communication needs. In today’s world, if you don’t know how to use video conferencing platforms, social media, IM, and text, AT A MINIMUM, you’re limiting your potential for success. Why do you need to be comfortable in all of these platforms? Because you need to meet your customers where they are – and they might be in a number of different places, in terms of communication. I have one client that is nearly impossible to reach by phone, but if I text him, I have a response within minutes. If I refused to text (as a salesperson told me last week that he did), I’d never get ahold of him. Hack: Ask your customers (not just the younger ones) what they prefer for communication. Then communicate the way they want to.
Are younger buyers different? Somewhat, for reasons both cultural and technological. But they are still people, and they are still individuals. By now, you should have noticed that none of my four C’s put all younger people in one bucket. The real art of selling to younger people is to recognize who they are as individuals, be adaptive to meet them where they are, and respect their skills, processes, and abilities. We’ll delve into this topic a lot more as 2023 continues, but the four C’s should give you a good starting point.