As a salesperson, trying to appeal to all the generations is never an easy task. You have to navigate a broad range of preferences without alienating one generation or another.
Through our research we’ve developed a pretty good understanding of how to walk that fine line, but in the past few years have watched as Millennials, for better or worse, have commandeered the spotlight and captured the attention of salespeople and marketers worldwide. With the young, shiny new Millennials on the scene it can be easy for these people to forget that the other generations have huge financial pull as well. And in many cases, more so.
With that in mind, I want to shed some light on some specific sales tactics for one of these other generations – Baby Boomers. So how exactly do you market to the Boomer demographic? Here are the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions:
What is a Boomer trait that sales professionals should be aware of?
When we train salespeople, either via our gamified eLearning platform or during in-person trainings, we focus on the events and conditions that shape a generation so that our trainees can fully understand the reasoning behind shared generational traits. During the Baby Boomers formative years there was a significant surge of grassroots social change campaigns. From civil rights to anti-war movements, this was a group that stood up for what they believed in and saw change happen because of their actions. What does this mean for salespeople? Boomers are a generation that is used to challenging the status quo, so giving them the opportunity to question and explore the product or service is key. They’re not going to accept your offering at face-value, and instead will want you to take the time to explain why what you’re selling is worthwhile and how it’s going to make their lives better or easier.
How should sales professionals adjust and/or target their efforts to appeal most effectively to Boomer core values?
Through our research we see time and time again that Boomers are betrayed by the media as graying, old and lacking energy; however, we find the complete opposite to be the case. Boomers prove again and again that they are truly young at heart. They are the generation that brought us free love, Woodstock, and television, and are not to be looked at as decrepit, stagnant and unwilling to explore new territory. In the tech world Boomers are actually the generation spending the most money, but because of preconceptions and stereotypes they’re often discounted quickly by tech salespeople. This is a huge oversight and the sellers that realize this misstep and focus their efforts on attracting the Boomer demographic to their products are sure to see a huge payoff.
What are the best modes of communication with Boomers (e.g., phone vs. mail vs. in-person vs. text or e-mail)?
The mode of communication is less important than the content and tone, which can be boiled down to three key elements:
1. Simplify: Boomers, like many, feel bombarded by information. They are a generation that has adapted to and eventually embraced technology, but weren’t brought up with the same rate of change and information overload that is a standard today. They are also incredibly busy. Simplify so that you keep their attention and focus on the meat of your message. Make sure the information you’re providing is simple, straightforward, and accessible.
2. Step up formality: Boomers were brought up in a more formal world: letters were sent with a specified format, professional dress was set at a high standard, and more often than not people were addressed by their surnames. Ask yourself, does my communication represent the more formal expectations of the Boomer generation? You don’t need to sound like a Victorian headmaster, just step it up slightly in simple but subtly impactful ways like adding a subject line to your emails and a greeting to your communications.
3. Be helpful, not condescending: Lastly, carefully construct your approach so that the subtext behind your message is one of explaining and helping rather than telling and talking down to. This will be key with this authority resistant generation.
Any tips for sales professionals in dealing with boomers?
In their current life stage, Boomers are considered a “sandwiched” generation. They are financially responsible for aging parents while their Millennial kids are boomeranging back home due to the unsteady job market. The idealism and optimism that are so central to a Boomer’s generational personality are being challenged by the pressure they’re experiencing because of their financial “sandwiching.” Positioning sales in a way that evokes those feelings of idealism and great potential is vital. Focus on the positive impact your product or service will have in their lives, whether that be by lightening their load, making tedious tasks simpler or even just providing a temporary sense of escape, relief, and enjoyment. They’ll thank you for it, and better still, will buy into what you’re selling.