Persuading others to take a desired action may have similarities regardless of the generational age of the buyer, but there are definite differences, too.
Several years ago, myself and colleague Bette Price interviewed over 100 Millennials and surveyed another 500 to discover what 20-somethings expected from employers.
Unexpectedly, it also yielded relevant insights into how they prefer to buy or be sold.
When persuading a Millennial to purchase a product or solution keep these aspects in mind.
Sell a Millennial the way they like to be sold. Before you attempt to get the Millennial to know your product offering, get to know them first.
They will want to know that you know them before they take a sincere interest in knowing how your product can possibly satisfy their need. It is wise to begin by taking a fresh look at your approach to conveying your product offering’s value proposition.
A few years ago, a client-company’s salesforce (consisting of mostly seasoned reps) was using an outmoded approach to selling. You know the kind, a one-way conversation with a ‘pitchy’ style, rehearsed power point slides, non-engaging questions that fail to create insights and fail to get customers thinking from a different perspective. Mind-numbing.
When the client figured out that younger decision-makers weren’t responding, we worked on changing to a more engaging style for the account managers, one that focused entirely on how the Millennial wanted to buy instead of how the account managers wanted to sell. The results were especially positive.
Make a meaningful connection through effective listening. A Millennial will appreciate you and trust you on a deeper level if you listen effectively.
When you ask a pertinent question and then get solely, entirely focused on what they’re trying to get across to you, it creates trust more quickly and more deeply because you are connecting with them on a relational level. Psychologists call this empathic listening and it’s important to understand.
A Millennial wants to feel comfortable with a seller, especially someone who is from an older generation. They are really good at detecting when someone is dismissive or is undervaluing their point of view because they don’t have as much experience.
One of the ways you can demonstrate respect for their opinions is to ask relevant questions that show you’ve done your homework on the company, then ask follow up questions that demonstrate you’ve listened to them during the conversation, and by asking questions that break through preconceived beliefs or inaccurate assumptions about your product. The key, though, is to listen attentively and patiently. At certain times repeat back what they said to ensure that you are understanding accurately what they’ve told you.
If you hear something that’s not quite accurate, they won’t mind if you bring it up because they love learning something new, gaining fresh insights and improving their knowledge base. If you do this well, they will place higher importance on your value proposition.
Give a tailored message by throwing out your canned slide presentation. Millennials have no patience for self-serving power point talks. They don’t want to hear the same information you present to everyone else.
They buy value, but they buy it for their reasons not yours.
Start with asking for their input to your presentation by saying something like, “So that we can use your time wisely and have you walk away with the information you want to know, tell me what you’d like to make sure we cover?” Follow it up by asking something like this, “Any other aspects regarding our Widget you’d like to know about?”
If you feel there are some areas they are overlooking, areas you’d love to cover because they are strengths in your product’s value, you can try saying, “Something else you might want to consider, we’ve had a number of customers request that we also discuss ‘X’ because of its impact on safety, would that helpful for us to cover as well?”
This technique engages a Millennial decision influencer in helping you focus on what’s important to them. Later on, this helps you articulate a value proposition that’s been tailor fit more convincingly to their value drivers.
Trust is a must. They not only want trust in buyer-seller relationships, but they demand trust. Issues of trust influence nearly every other element of a Millennial buyer’s view of purchasing B2B goods and services. Promises claimed on a company website, during a conversation with the salesperson or in a proposal must be kept. When promises are not kept it creates friction which puts you or your organization at risk of losing brand equity in their eyes.
Trust underlies nearly every facet of a purchase that is important to the Millennial buyer.
Don’t be surprised when a Millennial wants to know ‘your’ story, especially if you are a seasoned seller. This is one of their preferred ways to know who you are, the value you bring personally and how well you fit in with their culture preferences and who they like to work with. Personally, I give a brief little teaser, my 90-second infomercial, and then quickly transition back around to questions. However, a Millennial may return to your story (or company story) and want to know more, particularly when they are becoming genuinely interested in your product.
Since one of the highest rated issues of importance to this generation is the importance of trust, something they won’t tolerate very much of is friction in their purchase experience — during and after the purchase cycle. So, it’s a good idea to get everyone on your team supportive. Any department or function in your company with customer interaction must provide a frictionless experience to your customer. Retaining a Millennial buyer earns loyalty, and that helps drive up profit margins and future sales revenue.
Quantify your value on their terms. Once you have discovered the individual’s driving forces behind the decision, and the criteria they are using to make a decision, you should quantify the positive differences your solution will make for their operation.
While this is true for any buyer, a Millennial especially recognizes that they don’t possess the expertise or the knowledge to make a completely accurate decision regarding the best overall value. What’s more, if they like and trust you, they will lean on your insights to help them make a correct decision.
If the Millennial you sell to is a lower to mid-level decision influencer make certain you provide tangible, quantifiable differences for your value. Do your homework and break down the numbers for them, do not expect them to take the time to do this in a manner that favors you.
Realize, they must justify their job by providing management with tangible, supportive evidence and numbers.
Now, if the Millennial is a higher-level decision maker quantifiable differences will remain important, but don’t overlook the emotional motivations for the decision.
Higher level decision makers can justify decisions for more intangible reasons. If you do this effectively and win the sale you may hear feedback such as, “I felt like you really understood us,” or, “We were really comfortable with your approach.”
I’ve coached numerous salespeople through winning large multimillion-dollar sales, and the deciding factor was due to an emotion-based driving force.
What neuroscience has long proven is that we buy for emotion-based reasons that we justify with logic. With such little difference between competitors today, your customer depends on you to sell in terms of both their logic and emotion-based reasoning.
Prioritize what is most important to your Millennial buyer. Don’t try to emphasize ten things, find the top three or four and emphasize those.
You will retain their interest in your value message by avoiding the use of long, rambling messaging, and instead, break your message into chunks and mention them over the course of the discussion. Why? Because attention spans have diminished significantly with the advent of social media tweets, emails and texts. Also, communicate in their preference whether that’s texting, phone, email or Facebook.
To get through the myriad of messages a Millennial receives, communicate with specifics but keep it brief as possible, especially if it’s in an email or voice mail. In a proposal, make it easy for them to locate what they want to know quickly.
Something else that’s important is speed of response. Not only does this help your buyer keep up with the fast pace of business, but it says that you place a high value on their business and they personally matter to you. This builds confidence, like-ability and trust in your sales process, faster.
Bottom line: You can be highly effective at landing sales with Millennial decision makers by selling to them in a way that aligns with how they want to buy.