Selling Managed Services in a Multigenerational Market

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The impact of age demographics is becoming more critical to the success of managed service providers and advanced manufacturers because they are selling in a multigenerational market.

Sellers are finding that buyers have divergent expectations driven by age. Successful sellers are finding it necessary to adjust their selling behaviors, messaging and content to accommodate the needs of younger buyers and, at the same time, avoid ignoring the needs of other age groups within their audience.

Personalization is Key to Selling in a Multigenerational Market

According to a recent Salesforce survey, 80 percent of younger B2B buyers were more comfortable buying within an Amazon-like experience that provided heavy emphasis on personalization.

Older buyers are also more likely to spend more time conducting research and solution evaluation prior to engaging with a salesperson. Amazon is not exclusively a young person’s domain, so lessons learned there should apply to large swathes of your buying audience.

Age-Related Buying Behavior

Age drives several critical factors that make up buyer behavior. Specific preferences tied to age are found in terms of defined value and experience.

Consumers are Comfortable with the “Amazon Type” of Buying-and-Selling Experience

When you consider the nature of Amazon, consider how comfortable consumers are with the Amazon buying-and-selling process. It is not a stretch to see that experiential expectation extending into the B2B world.

Traditionally, a sales rep delivers a value proposition statement, discusses needs and pain points, followed by product features and benefits. The buyer validates this information through user stories, references and industry analyst evaluations.

With Amazon, the buyer searches for solutions. The user experience offers many possible solutions, each of which can be compared by multiple categories. Charts, pictures and videos are made available. Pricing discounts based on bundling or quantity are offered, and in most cases, the transaction can be cancelled or the product can be returned. For those who are interested in third-party validation, quality scoring and individual testimonials are offered as well.

The entire process is buyer-driven. It offers the buyer a low-risk process that is highly responsive in terms of order initiation, delivery and returnability.

The buyer decides which solutions merit evaluation and then selects those most suitable for the short list. The buyer is protected by cancellation and return policies that are clearly stated and backed by Amazon. In many cases, the buyer can evaluate the same solution as offered by multiple sellers under the Amazon umbrella.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are posted for almost any product. User stories are articulated, and product or transaction satisfaction is scored on a graphical rating scale. The buyer can frequently satisfy his or her research requirements entirely within the buying experience. The buyer can also access deeper-dive research by accessing the manufacturer’s or seller’s own website.

Buyers control the process according to their individual, personalized requirements.

Sellers need to accommodate this type of transaction for an increasing number of buyers and certainly with younger buying audiences.

How to Connect with Buyers in a Multigenerational Market: Important Factors to Consider

There are several factors that should be considered when tuning communication in a multigenerational market.

Audience Attention Span

Younger audiences are less likely to be reached via long form writing such as white papers or extended stories.

If you’ve been to an “action” movie lately, you may have noticed the action starts with the first frame of the film and is unrelenting throughout the next 90 minutes. There is little time spent on extensive character development or the background story. It is, indeed, all action. Gone are the days of three-hour movies. Two-hour movies are increasingly rare.

This fast-track model may well be applied to the buying experience younger buyers expect. Where older buyers might want to contemplate, compare and consider assorted choices, younger buyers are more likely to know what they want and buy the first acceptable alternative presented.

Technological Focus

Sales used to be all about schlepping product sheets, brochures, user stories and catalogs around to prospects. Today, buyers are demanding a full online buying experience. They want to “try out” the product in a risk-free, real-world demo.

For proof statements, buyers want to access real-world users and don’t depend on anonymous user stories.

Online prospect portals should offer guided-selling, behavior-driven, marketing and sales assets to users who are perfectly suited to each phase of the sale. The sales process should also evaluate users’ interest level and the nature of their relationship with the problem being solved—it should be personalized.

Avoid Generation-Specific References

If you litter your content with references to generationally specific phrases, events or values, you risk alienating, or at least confusing, that portion of your audience with no understanding of what the example symbolizes.

The World War II generation might know the meaning of “Kilroy was here,” boomers might get it when someone responds with “you bet your bippy” and folks who lived through the ‘90s will laugh at “Whassup” (also known as “Wazzup”), but everyone else will just be puzzled. Stick to examples, expressions, stories and references that resonate across all generational boundaries.

Sellers need to pay attention to “who” their buyer is, as well as what they are in the context of the transaction. This means it is equally important to know where your contact is on the generational rating scale and be prepared to communicate accordingly.

Sales training should include some knowledge transfer related to this. Marketing should build collateral that is either generationally customized or optimized for cross-generational use. Less wordy, more visually oriented elements will accomplish this.

Technology Drives Responsiveness

The key activities in which Marketing and Sales engage are not changed by this multigenerational reality. Technology is there and available to help Marketing and Sales operate effectively.

Audience identification can be aided by CRM and contact management systems. Content selections may be offered for web visitors based on generational clues offered through online behavior within a prospect portal.

Guided selling found with scripted interviewing, sales automation and CPQ products can be tuned to maximize the alignment of content with audiences in terms of age or generational orientation.

Tune the Message to the Audience

None of this is really new. It’s the same rule that has guided Marketing and Sales forever: tune the message to the audience. It’s simply a more finely tuned approach to accomplishing that goal.

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