If the headlines are to be believed, millennials have killed a lot of things: fabric softener, beer, Applebee’s, lunch, and just about anything you can think of. Most of that is clickbait, of course. But as more and more millennials achieve leadership positions in enterprise companies—remember, millennials can be as old as 38 at this point—they’re legitimately changing how purchasing decisions get made. Research is showing that they’re sales averse, hate the phone, and do much of their research via social.
But are B2B revenue teams keeping up? Not really—and they’re paying the price.
The enterprise buyers of the future (and a lot of buyers today) see the sales process differently than previous generations, and they’re not afraid to approach purchasing in a way few revenue teams are prepared for. To stay competitive with the new generation of prospects, you’ve got to adapt your marketing approach to meet millennials where they are and deliver what they want. Here’s how.
Who are millennials, anyway?
If you’re somehow new to the concept of millennials, they’re the folks born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. And while the media loves to paint them (disclosure: I’m one of them) as frivolous, avocado toast-loving student loan sinkholes, the reality is that millennials can be as old as 38—plenty old enough to be a VP or director in an enterprise organization. In fact, a Forrester survey found that 73 percent of B2B buying decisions involve millennials.
Oh, and don’t forget the fact that millennials are the largest generation in the American workforce. In fact, they make up more than a third of our overall labor force, and that percentage is only going to keep climbing over the next few years.
Millennials grew up in the digital age. The oldest among us were online in our teens and witnessed the explosion of chat rooms, chat apps, social media (Friendster, anyone?), and file sharing. The internet grew up alongside us, and we even went through our awkward MySpace phases together. We’ve seen every digital marketing ploy the internet has to offer, and we aren’t buying any of it.
So how do you close business with millennials? Heck, how do you even get our attention to begin with?
How to market and sell to millennials today
The stereotype of the anti-social millennial who communicates entirely through texting and emojis is as silly as it is tiresome. But there is some truth to the notion that we prefer to connect on our own terms, when and where we choose. And one place we’re almost never going to choose? The phone.
Cold calling at the top of the funnel is hands down the least effective way to reach a millennial prospect—especially if you’re ringing them seconds after they downloaded a white paper. In fact, in SnapApp’s recent survey, millennial buyers cited that as one of the three biggest pain points during the sales process.
The others? Cold outreach and lack of personalization. Instead of blowing up your prospect’s cell phone the second they sign up to read an e-book, you’ll need to rethink your entire approach to marketing if you want to reach the young leaders of today.
- Make it easy for them to come to you: Millennial buyers like to research tech purchases on their own before speaking to a rep, so make sure there’s enough info available to help them decide on your product. This comes in the form of content about your product, your pricing, and how you’ve made an impact for other customers. Clear pricing and case studies featuring real-world customers are your best assets here. You’ve also got to make it easy for them to get in touch when they’re ready to talk, so having contact information readily accessible is key.
- Communicate about community impact: Millennials are famous for caring about causes like corporate social responsibility, and it’s no surprise that millennial buyers cited company community involvement and company values as the leading factors when considering potential vendors. Differentiate yourself by using smart content and savvy messaging in your collateral and on your site to showcase how your organization gives back to the community. A little can go a long way here.
- Know their pain points: Forrester calls millennials the “heads-down generation” for two reasons: we’re usually looking at a screen—and we’re absolutely swamped. Most of us are doing the equivalent of what would have been several people’s jobs a decade ago, and we’re starved for time as a result. That’s why your message has to be precisely on point and resonate with millennial buyers’ pain points immediately. If you can access an insider who can give you the skinny on what your target is struggling with, use that to tailor your message and grab their attention instantly.
- Build trust through content: We covered the value of great content, but there’s a lot to be said for when you share it, as well. Instead of bombarding them with constant content, a quick email that shares an article or white paper that’s relevant to their interests will go a long way toward building trust and rapport. It doesn’t even need to contain a sales message. Something as simple as “I came across this article, and I thought you might find it useful. Have a great weekend!” will do wonders. You’re adding value and not asking for anything in return—and that’ll be huge when you eventually make the ask.
- Be smart about—and on—social: The stereotypes are largely true, I’m afraid: millennials love social. In fact, it’s the first place millennials go when they’re ready to start researching a B2B purchase. So make sure your social presence is effective and contains useful links to content that will help them make a decision.
Consumer businesses have been freaking out about millennials for about a decade now, and it’s time for B2B providers to get on the bandwagon. Today’s young professionals have very different tastes, behaviors, and desires than previous generations, and B2B sellers are going to have to adapt—or die.
Millennials aren’t kids anymore. They’re increasingly becoming decision-makers in enterprise-level organizations, and that trend is only going to continue as the generation ages. These new buyers have very different priorities and preferences than generations past, so the old ways of marketing and selling B2B solutions are becoming increasingly obsolete. To compete today, you’ve got to know their pain points and be able to address them effectively, and you’ve got to provide the info they need to make the decision to come to you—because they don’t want you to come to them.