Millennials & Gen Z customers: Selling in the middle ground

2019-03-13 Blog

Being a salesperson means you must understand the type of people you are selling to. You should also bear in mind that every segment that you target is unique. Catering to their expectations involves an acute understanding of their generational mindsets. Irrespective of the industry, with every generation – the customer’s mentality evolves. Their awareness levels, their purchasing intents, and their service expectations go through a sea of changes.

In 2019, every sales pitch should be targeting to attract two primary demographics: Millennials and Generation Z. They are the ones on the verge of exerting autonomy over business decisions. While their expectations as customers follow different patterns, there are commonalities that govern their purchasing behaviors. To find this middle-ground, you must understand how the two sides are likely to process information, analyze outcomes and take decisions.

Before that, you should understand where they are coming from, and why they got here.

First, presenting the millennial customer

Millennials (aka the iGeneration) are made up of those born from about 1981 to 1995. A recent industry study says that 73% of B2B sales transactions involving millennial decisions makers.

How they process information: Millennials are at the helm of digital transformation because they saw how it all began. They are the earliest adopters of digital technology. They have made businesses rethink how they sell by making experience was their number one priority. Sales is an experience enabler, and in some cases – an experience unto itself – ever since they were put in charge.

Here’s what you should do about it:

  • Kick-off the awareness stage by primarily addressing their pain points
  • They don’t want to be screamed at for their attention; be subtle at the entry level
  • Cross the last mile when you come to it; focus on their long-term growth priorities, not your immediate sales priorities

How they analyze outcomes:  Thinking about what millennials want has turned startups into global success stories. It’s a billion-dollar question. Answering it accurately has made their sales agents exceed their monthly targets in style. On the flip side, it has caused many businesses, who were unable to figure it out, to disappear off the face of the planet. The truth is that a universal answer does not exist. Given the constancy of change in their expectations, the learning curve is steep.

But, there are strong assumptions which can be made.

  • They react positively to aesthetic appeal and interface intuitiveness in the sales material; always be proactive and visually-pleasing
  • They expect you to have a strong online presence; sell where they choose to engage
  • They are uncompromising about scalability in product or service; talk to them about how things will work out in the long run
  • They have shrunk the world and reimagined productivity; don’t waste their time with long-winding pitches

How they take decisions: Millennials are experts in using data-driven technology to simplify and accelerate the way they finalize buying decisions. They are renowned for putting data to good use for driving the decision-making process. While accessibility, convenience, and speed take top spots on their agendas, the need to take a fully-informed decision remains unabated.

Here a few questions you should consider before moving to close the sale:

  • Are you helping them achieve their business and professional goals?
  • Are you providing differentiation on simplicity and convenience?
  • Are you offering scalability, which translates into longer relationships?
  • Are you making it clear that you have the flexibility to accommodate changes?

Introducing Generation Z

Generation Z (aka the iGeneration), is made up of those born from about 1996 to 2010. According to Forbes, “Gen Z is already on track to become the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020”.

How they process information: Generation Z is largely accepted as the social generation. While millennials may have kickstarted the rise of social, Gen Z took it to a whole new level. As the first truly-digital natives, they deal with so many sales pitches on a daily basis that they have become the toughest sales targets. To capture their mindshare at the awareness stage requires a lot more than digital sophistication. Here are other key drivers to grab their attention.

  • Promote transparency and accountability because they have a more value-based system than the previous generation
  • Provide social validation and influencer acceptance, which are valuable commodities; create and share testimonials
  • Get onboard their channel of choice

How they analyze outcomes: Gen Z is the first generation to grow up in a world that is as much virtual as it is physical. The ease in which they access information is unheralded. It means that as customers, their expectations are often predetermined. Thankfully, for the sales agent, this generation is well-aware that traditional choices do not guarantee success. It makes them eager to be convinced otherwise. Before engaging them, it is crucial to know whether you are:

  • Participatory in the way you engage with them
  • Pragmatic in laying out the risks and benefits
  • Confident in customizing to their needs

How they take decisions: Generation Z is learning from the economic mistakes made by millennials. It has made them more practical in their approach to purchasing. But their attention spans are also getting shorter. It is a blink-and-you-may-miss-the-sale situation. As a sales agent, you need to navigate through their preferred purchase cycle that starts with social awareness and ends with hyper-personalization.

Here are some ways to assert yourself in the final stage of their buying process.

  • Reinforce how your sale can fit into their professional or personal narrative
  • Allow them to seal the deal just based on affordability
  • Showcase uncompromising data privacy and virtual security

Now, for that sweet spot

There are striking similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. As a salesperson, you should know what they are to maximize your selling potential while decreasing your efforts in segmentation.

Customize or go home: Both generations grew up in a connected world. They have experienced the value of customization in various aspects of their lives. At no point should they feel pushed to a corner because of the rigidity of process, feature or service.

Difference-makers: Neither generation is attracted to transactional seller-buyer relationships. The millennials want great experiences, and Generation Z expects memorable journeys. They are keen on creating long-lasting impact; one that goes beyond traditional problem-solving expectations.

Frictionless efficiency: They have both spent an extensive amount of time, money and creativity to simplify their lives; to connect, automate and refresh. Complications, at any stage of the sales cycle, can drastically bring down their interest levels. What keeps them eager to buy is the combined goal of consistency, efficiency, and productivity.

Beyond the product or service: For the millennial or Gen Z customer to take a step forward into making the purchase, you must take a step back in selling your product or service. There is a larger story to consider. A vision your brand represents, or a mission the industry is talking about – either of which can fit into the narrative of why they may choose to engage with you.

The norms and expectations set by millennial and Gen Z customers are already in motion in the sales world. They are evolving as you read this – because the next generation is always around the corner. Things will once again change. Businesses will be forced to quickly respond. And the success rate of sales agents will continue to rest in their understanding of intergenerational purchasing behavior.