Guest Column - May/June 2016

Why Millennials Are Out-Selling Boomers and Xers

By Tom Silk


Much has been written about the annoying habits of millennials, and I myself have been known to tell my 20-something reps to get off Tinder and pick up the phone. As the head of a sales and marketing team that is mostly millennials, I've had my fair share of the well-documented annoyances of the younger generation, but I've also noticed something else. My millennials are selling better and smarter than many of our company's older, more seasoned sales partners.

The Sales Landscape Has Changed

Historically, buyers relied on salespeople for information about products and services, so the salesperson needed to be "consultative" and provide expert advice on the industry, as well as the company and its offerings. Today's buyer has already visited Google, Yelp and Consumer Affairs, and watched your case study videos before they ever speak to you. They may have already reached out to LinkedIn contacts who have used your services to get the inside scoop.

Older, more traditional salespeople still believe they are the main sources of information, and they miss completely that their job is to assist the sale rather than to educate the buyer. They are constantly trying to send materials and supporting proof that will make their case.

Millennials intuitively understand that this is usually a waste of time, because they have grown up using social media and the Internet at large to do research before making purchase decisions. The 28-year-old sales rep isn't calling the buyer to educate them, but to assist and support them in their research and answer any lingering questions that have come up and to move the sale along.

The Buyer Doesn't Want You to Take Them to Dinner

Older, more traditional salespeople still believe they are the main sources of information, and they miss completely that their job is to assist the sale rather than to educate the buyer.

Another advantage the millennial salesperson has is that they intuitively take up less of a prospect's time. They don't set up in-person meetings just to "build relationships." And the thought of having a formal call to answer a simple question when you can send a text message or e-mail is preposterous. Buyers love this!

As their manager, I love this too, because it means I get almost zero requests for T&E budget from my millennial team. They aren't trying to take a prospect out to dinner to discuss our latest product features; they send them a quick text message with a link to an article that covers them. And the buyer doesn't want to go to dinner with them, so they appreciate being allowed to take in this information on their own terms.

Buyers Are Just Like You and Me

Millennials largely grew up learning to treat authority figures as equals, and they converse with buyers as such. They are also less likely to have enough experience to be embarrassed by saying or doing the wrong thing, so they just go for it. Older reps tend to put the customers on a pedestal, which can feel uncomfortable and make for stilted communication. Today's buyers react better when there is honest, human conversation rather than brown-nosing.

There is no doubt that less experienced millennials can learn a great deal from salespeople who have been at it for decades, but the more seasoned seller also has some adapting to do to reach the modern buyer. We can all take some valuable cues from millennials who have grown up in this new world of online research, texting and emojis. You might find yourself improving your sales performance while saving budget, paper and time.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Silk is Executive Vice President of WorkStride, which he joined as its first salesperson in 2000. He proved instrumental in the early success of the company, bringing on customers such as Pepsico, Samsung and Verizon Wireless, as the company built up its recognition and incentive software offering. He facilitated the company's sale to The Riverside Company in 2012, and has expanded the sales team to include both channel partners and in-house representatives, built a marketing team, and formed distribution partnerships for the WorkStride software platform.