If you work in sales for a B2B company, you’ve probably noticed some shifts in the landscape over the last five years. Your brain might go straight to technological advancements, improvements to your pipeline or even additional features in your HubSpot portal. But what I’m talking about is the people.
More specifically: millennials. The generation of smartphone wielding technology natives is now the largest group in the workforce, and they’re moving up the corporate ladder. In recent years, the millennial generation started entering C-suite and senior-level leadership roles in businesses, bringing significant changes to how companies operate and purchase.
As quickly as they take these new positions, they also become your point of contact for sales. This means you have to start shifting your sales tactics to fit a new audience.
But how do you do that? Where do you start? What will this new generation respond to best? First, you must understand their background. If you can nail down how a millennial thinks about making a business purchase, then you’re better equipped to address their core concerns and prove value where they need to see it.
Millennial Spending Power
Some people still see millennials as the young bucks trying to earn a living, but the fact is that many of them already have. A millennial is anyone born between 1981-1996, putting the “elder millennials” (those born at the beginning of the generation) in their late 30s and early 40s with more than a decade of career experience.
In fact, millennials are doing so well that their collective spending power reached $2.5 trillion in 2020 and has continued trending upward.
Note: Spending power (a.k.a. purchasing power) is the financial ability to purchase products and services. It represents what they could spend, not what they did spend.
Despite their hefty purchasing power, most millennials are more focused on saving money than spending it — both in their personal lives and in business. They’ll make a purchase if it’s necessary, but they weigh decisions heavily and require ample evidence.
Millennials tend to have big goals for their lives, such as buying a home or saving for a comfortable retirement. These items are often prioritized over “toys” or luxury items. This mindset follows them into their leadership roles and influences their purchasing decisions. They’re more focused on the strategic vision of their companies and reaching long-term goals than adding something new that only helps the here and now.
The Millennial Executive
Millennials make up roughly a third of the workforce — 35% according to the most recent Pew Research data — and now they’re moving into leadership roles, taking their spending power and purchasing mindset with them.
These are just two small aspects of what makes the millennial executive unique, though. The world they grew up in has shaped their priorities and perspective, significantly contributing to their penchant for changing the way companies operate.
As we mentioned before, they aren’t spending on just anything even if their business has the budget. Elder millennials came of age in the midst of the 2008 recession and watched adults swing from financial confidence to penny pinching almost overnight. This has made millennials starkly aware of how fragile a foundation the economy can be for financial health. The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped change their minds, either.
These circumstances partnered with theirs being the first generation to take on significant debt to attend college has made millennials more cautious about spending than previous generations. They pay attention to economic indicators and prefer a safe investment with long-term benefits to seemingly risky bets with no long-term application.
Another common millennial attribute is their “tech savvy” nature. Their generation grew up watching technology sweep the world; they were the first with internet access in their homes and cell phones in their pockets. This has given them a unique confidence to approach a new piece of technology, learn about it and implement it in their lives or business.
According to an article in California Management Review: “100% of surveyed Millennial business owners with $1-$10 million in revenue believe Artificial Intelligence will be directly responsible for major business evolution within the next five years.”
They can see the writing on the wall — tech is on the rise and you can adapt or be left behind — and they’re more likely to invest in forward-thinking pieces of technology that will keep their business ahead of the curve.
Millennial executives place a high value on their workplace culture. They’ve done their time in burnout cultures and want to do away with toxic expectations and schedules for the next generation. They actively seek out ways to promote and protect their employees’ work-life balance without sacrificing company productivity.
To achieve this goal, millennials are more likely to adopt automation and AI that streamlines workflows and frees up their staff for more important tasks. This mindset also extends to their business partnerships. They want to work with companies that align with their values and mission and have their employees’ best interests in mind.
Every salesperson should understand these three driving forces in millennial executives and be prepared to adjust their sales pitch to address each one.
The Buying Process
Aside from their unique motivations, millennials also have a distinctive buying process. They have certain expectations when it comes to discovering and learning about your business and products. The following three are the biggest factors in their decision making process.
Where previous generations may have relied almost solely on sales representatives for information about products and services, millennials are keen to do their own research.
Growing up in the age of information has given them the confidence and skills to do their own digging online and discover if a product is right for them. And they expect that information to be readily available on your business’s website. In other words, they prefer to qualify themselves before they get on a sales call.
Because they’re accustomed to having the world’s information at the click of a button, millennials are also seasoned deal hunters. They won’t purchase something unless they’ve checked your competitors and decided you’re the best option for the price.
Don’t be discouraged by this, though. Just because they’re shopping around doesn’t mean they won’t choose your business. It just means you need to focus on clearly communicating your product value and central message throughout your website and content.
Just like every other human, millennials are geared to respond to stories. Even more so stories on topics they care about. Millennials have long since led the charge on supporting purpose-driven brands that are dedicated to sustainability, social justice or positive change, and they’ve brought this into their businesses.
They’re looking for content that explains what you do, sure, but they also care about who you are. They want to know your story and why they should partner with you. They want to know who they’re supporting by doing business with you. To millennials, business is becoming more relational than simply transactional.
So how do you do this? You insert story in your sales process. It’s easier than it seems and we have a blog all about it, so I’ll save you the elevator pitch here.
Ease of Purchase
Lastly, millennials want purchasing to be easy. Not because they’re lazy but because they know it’s possible. They want to work with companies that prioritize the user experience and make it easy to say “Let’s do this” once they’ve made the decision to move forward.
The two major things to consider as a B2B company is your website’s UX design and your brand consistency across all marketing channels. You need a website that’s easy to navigate and makes it clear what people should do if they want to work with you.
Additionally, the language, colors, buttons and CTAs you use in marketing materials should be consistent across all channels. These will provide visual cues for people who have been researching your brand and getting to know you so they know exactly where to click no matter what platform they’re on.
Note: Even if you aren’t focusing on selling to millennials, this is good practice for any company and any audience segment.
How to Adjust Your Sales Process
To be quite honest, selling to millennials isn’t that different from selling to anyone else. It simply requires you to keep your business up to date with current buyer trends and preferences (because millennials are the bulk of those buyers.)
There are five areas in particular that you need to focus on to cater to that millennial mindset and how they like to approach the sales process:
1. Information First
Millennials like to do their homework. They will undoubtedly research your brand before scheduling a meeting, contacting a salesperson or even considering you as a business partner. You need to make that information easy to find and readily available.
Create valuable content that addresses common questions, offers best practices and otherwise guides your prospects through their customer journey. Most importantly, don’t gate content unnecessarily. Your content should be free to access unless it’s something of significant value.
2. Really Prove Value
Millennials won’t be fooled by fancy language or smoke and mirrors. They want to see that your product or service offers real value to their business. The easiest way to prove this is through case studies or use cases. You can clearly demonstrate problems you’ve solved for similar customers to help convince a millennial prospect that you’re worth the investment.
3. Forward Focus
Millennial executives are focused on growth. They’re trying to set up their companies for long-term success and find ways to make work easier for the next generation of business leaders. This means their decisions are based on strategy and forward thinking.
To address this mindset, it’s wise to showcase how your product or service can grow and scale with their business. Take HubSpot, for example. A business can get in at the Starter level and move up through the tiers as their staff and needs expand. This growth potential resonates with millennial leaders because they see it as an opportunity to save money in the long-run instead of needing a new product every 3-5 years.
4. Remove Barriers to Buying
In case you haven’t noticed, millennials like to do things themselves. So if your website makes it difficult to purchase, millennials are likely to walk away in favor of something similar.
Barriers to buying come in many forms, including:
- Not enough information
- Too much information
- Requiring people to talk to your sales team
- Making the sign up/purchase process needlessly complicated
Avoiding these common mistakes makes it easier for people to purchase from you in the way they’re most comfortable with.
5. Don’t Discount Face-to-Face
There’s a nasty rumor out there that millennials don’t like phone calls. Countless sources will tell you to only email or text a millennial because they don’t want to talk on the phone or in person.
This is simply not true.
Yes, millennials favor digital communication in their day-to-day lives, but they’re still humans. They still enjoy talking to others and often find it important if they’re about to hand over their hard-earned money.
Don’t let your sales team be so wrapped up in “quick communication” that they miss out on forming a genuine relationship with these prospects. Just like every business leader before them, millennials respond to respect and trustworthiness. So make a 1:1 video for your email or schedule that Zoom call! Your prospect will be glad you’re taking the time to truly get to know them and solve their problem the right way.
Better Understanding = More Sales
It’s not news that you need to know your audience to sell to them. Don’t underestimate the millennial market, especially as they start moving into key business roles. They make up the majority of the workforce and have a buying power in the trillions — that’s a pretty promising market.
To learn about more ways you can revamp your sales process to better resonate with prospects, check out our blog about StoryBrand’s The Customer Is the Hero Framework.