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I really liked this post from Carew International on the generational differences and the impact on sales. It provides some interesting insight for sales leaders. The detailed Generational Differences Chart, provided at the Workflow Management Coalition website, is worth a look.

I also recommend “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy”, a book on the topic by Bruce Tulgan.

Increased generational diversity in the workforce means that getting into the “Odds Are” of customers is more complicated and challenging than ever before. Currently there is a big generational shift underway with the rapid exit of Boomers, due to retirement, the increasing proportion of Gen Xers among decision makers, and the arrival of Millennials into management positions.

While we must be careful not to cast blanket stereotypes, we can all benefit from increased awareness and attention to generational influences if we leverage these specific values and expectations for superior sales and customer service effectiveness. In general, “Baby Boomers” tend to be more structured and formal, “Gen Xers” more casual, and “Millennials” (also known as Gen Ys) still more relaxed. This distinction impacts every aspect of the sales process and customer relationship.

Generational influences may be most obvious in the area of customer communications, including format, frequency and style. For example, Boomers appreciate in-person interaction and personal relationships as part of business. In written communications, they expect proper grammar and punctuation. Boomers appreciate recognition of stature/authority. They are more likely to invoke regularly scheduled meetings, updates or phone calls.

In contrast, Gen Xers respond to more direct/blunt communications. They are less interested in “regular” meetings, but they expect more timely and frequent communication. Gen Xers are not as concerned with authority and rank, but expect their sales rep to learn their language and meet them in their world.

Millennials are far less interested in in-person meetings. They greatly prefer the efficiency of electronic communication, and expect immediate response to questions and requests. Their collaborative tendencies mean Millennials want to be included as you develop solutions for their organization. Millennials are more likely to buy in groups, versus Baby Boomers who tend to assume and assign single decision makers, and will be more definitive about who is in charge. It is important to understand who the decision maker is, and if it is indeed a committee making the purchase decision.

The key is to be aware of generational influences, and then be flexible in the style, rhythm and format you apply to different customers. Mentoring with different aged sales professionals on your own sales team is a great avenue for ongoing insight and feedback. With every new challenge comes new opportunity. Leverage your generational insight and awareness effectively and you will create a differentiating sales advantage.

Of course, these insights are just the tip of the iceberg! Want to take a deeper look at generational influences? The detailed Generational Differences Chart, provided at the Workflow Management Coalition website, is an excellent reference resource.