It was the title of the Bloomberg article that first struck me as I scanned my daily Google alert email - Gen Z is Set to Outnumber Millennials Within a Year. For a moment I felt sad and then forgotten as I considered my own generation slipping into the abyss. Dramatic – I know, but the reality is (was) that Millennials were once the focus and had been for as long as I could remember. Who are they? What made them this way? How will their behaviors impact the way we engage with them in a B2B selling environment? As I contemplated the seemingly premature death of the generational spotlight, a sentiment I’m sure every generation that has come before mine can appreciate, I started to grapple with what this meant to ME...
For the past several years my colleagues, and I, have spent countless hours asking ourselves these questions. We wrote a book about The Multigenerational Sales Team, have published 13 blog posts on the topic, and have been discussing generational impacts on sales at events like the Dreamforce Conference, on podcasts like Quotable, and with a variety of clients globally over the past 18 months. Generational considerations are one of several lenses with which we view sales effectiveness. While the book explores each generation, the impetus and focus always tied back to Millennials – a generation which is set to exceed 75% of the workforce by 2020 (Brookings Institution).
Once I got past the fact that the key differentiator between Gen Z and Millennials was a keen sense of self-awareness versus self-centeredness (rude, though 100% accurate based on my reaction outlined above), I started to think less about what it meant to me and more broadly about how this changes our approach for preparing organizations for the next generation of sellers and buyers.
After careful consideration, here are my top three timeliness takeaways:
1. Awareness is Half Your Battle
In our book we talk a lot about Generational Flexibility as a model for overcoming age diversity. You have a better chance of minimizing, or outright eliminating, generational differences by being aware, observing, and adjusting your behavior in accordance with what you come to find out about the individual sitting across the table.
When Gen Z starts making their way into buying roles or positions of power seek to understand what has influenced them over their life in order to identify the key descriptors and workplace preferences. Use this awareness to align your selling activities accordingly. Check out our Multigenerational Sales Team Pocket Guide to understand more about the 3 generations that currently make up today’s workforce – Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials.
2. Sales is Like a Box of Chocolates
You show up and it’s hard to pinpoint a buyer’s preferences right out of the gate. It’s even harder to characterize their work ethic or decipher how they like to consume content (e.g. LinkedIn vs. YouTube), let alone appreciate how they prefer to live, communicate, work, and learn. Here’s the rub – understanding each of these components is undoubtedly essential to effectively persuading someone to choose YOU over your competition.
Generational preferences aren’t the only thing that define a person. They aren’t even an exact science but our ability to generalize, based on millions of data points (people), provides some pretty statistically compelling data that is hard to argue. Using these valuable generalizations as a baseline is key but it is just the beginning of the process not the end. You must remember to observe your buyer, continuously test your hypothesis, and adjust your approach as necessary.
3. Genuine Curiosity Driven by a Desire to Help
Generational differences will evaporate if you are able to prove that you genuinely want to learn about what makes your buyer tick, what will get them promoted, and how YOU will help them succeed.
Call on your experience as a baseline for understanding your buyer and then work (everyday) at proving out your hypothesis. At Symmetrics Group we often stress the importance of buyer personas and thinking style assessments (e.g. HBDI©), to better understand how to approach buyers. Think of generational preference as just one more lens through which to view and understand your buyer. For additional perspective, click here to access a recent blog on transformative thinking and its impact on selling.
Regardless of the generation currently in focus, generational diversity and the friction it creates has been a topic of conversation for centuries. Be prepared by implementing the timely takeaways from this sidelined Millennial.