As Millennials start climbing the ranks, decision-making authority is shifting toward the workforce’s youngest generation. In the meantime, Generation X-ers take personal risks to establish a foothold in middle and upper management, while Baby Boomers cling to a management style marked by bureaucratic decision making. This changing of the guard is to be expected, but understanding generational nuances of buyers will be critical to ensure that the influences of age do not leave sellers at a disadvantage.
In our recent blog post, Why Leaders Are Failing At Managing Their Generationally Diverse Sales Teams, we explored how generational differences influence what attracts a seller to a new job versus what drives them away from a current one. In this post, we begin exploring generational differences amongst buyers and particularly, what happens when sellers sell across generations.
Our Multigenerational Research
Symmetrics Group recently conducted a B2B Generational Selling Survey that asked sales professionals to identify the generation(s) that characterize their buyer. Survey participants allocated percentages across three key generations that typify today’s workforce: Baby Boomers (Born: 1945-1964), Generation X (Born: 1965-1979), and Millennials (Born: 1980-2000).
We found that Millennial buyers represent 18%, Baby Boomer buyers account for 34%, and Generation X buyers continue to hold the majority at 50%. What proved more interesting was how that data shifts when survey participants are bucketed by their identified generation. Sales professionals are not only more likely to sell to someone from a generation different than their own, but 66% of these same survey participants responded that generational differences “Sometimes,” “Often,” or “Always” cause friction within their Sales process.
Generational diversity, like many factors that differentiate one person from the next, can impact the way we perceive those around us. Is it wrong to acknowledge that we are not all the same? No. Is it important to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the value that different experiences and perspectives provide? Absolutely!
Assessments about an individual’s age are often subconscious and determined in milliseconds. Individuals scan physical characteristics, consider past experiences and incorporate generational stereotypes emphasized in TV commercials, research papers, and case studies. Even with massive amounts of literature on the topic, sales professionals often ignore this data, which can lead to negative consequences.
Age – It’s More Than Just a Number
Is age an important factor to consider, or does acknowledging differences in age make us feel too uncomfortable? Corporations spend tens of millions of dollars annually on behavioral assessments and personality tests that promise to boost collaboration between colleagues and increase sales effectiveness. These frameworks for understanding yourself, as well as those around you, have immense value, but why does the idea of generational diversity seem to lack the same cache as the HBDI® thinking preference model or the DiSC® behavioral assessment tool?
Like these other assessments, understanding the implications of generational diversity is not a key that can be used to unlock all of your potential buyer’s secrets; rather, it is a lens through which you can begin to understand the individual seated on the other side of the table. Recognizing what motivates them, what influences their decision-making process, and their work ethic all provide perspective into how best to gain trust and manage the relationship.
Interested in learning more about the impact that age has on your ability to prospect effectively? See Part 2 of this blog series, where we offer specific tips for engaging with a generationally diverse set of prospects. From providing insight for how best to engage prospective buyers to creating a level of credibility that perpetuates your personal brand, we will continue to explore the importance of understanding the generational motivations of a potential buyer and how this understanding can minimize skepticism and maximize your ability to connect with each generation.
The Multigenerational Sales Team (Book Released 2017)
In our recent book, The Multigenerational Sales Team, we explore both the negative implications and potential opportunities associated with managing a multigenerational sales force and engaging externally with decision makers from various generations.
Generational impacts are one of several lenses with which Symmetrics Group looks at sales effectiveness. Learn more.