Consider the impact of millennials as B2B buyers and B2C consumers.
Some of the greatest global companies in the small-to mid-sized business space were started by baby boomers (born 1946—1964, 54—72 years old). Many of ECI’s customers—manufacturing, distribution, field services, and building and construction businesses—were a part of the great modern industry infrastructure and founded by visionaries of this generation.
Today, so many of these great companies routinely reinvest in their futures with new buildings, equipment, and vehicles. Yet many haven’t quite ensured that the investments they are making today are relevant to their next generation of buyers, whether those buyers exist in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer sphere.
Business-to-business (B2B) selling
Although 64 percent of buyer sign-off still exists within the C-suite, 24 percent of the sign-off rests with other employees. Moreover, according to Brent Adamson, principal executive advisor at CEB and co-author of The Challenger Sale and The Challenger Customer, the average number of customer stakeholders involved in a B2B purchasing decision in 2016 was 6.8.
This “decision by consensus” ensures that everyone within a company that can be impacted by a purchase has a voice in the decision. For this reason, it is vital that your sales and marketing efforts are aligned to address persona-based selling. That is, your communications should address the unique profiles of the groups and individuals to which you sell, factoring in generational preferences.
Do your salespeople use persona-based communications, and do they include all key influencers and decision makers within a prospect’s company in their solicitations?
How does your average business owner customer feel about your core products and services, and how have you evolved to meet their expectations? What about the expectations of those involved in the buying process? The other decision makers and influencers whose opinions all count. How have you changed to meet the expectations of a controller/CFO, operations manager, VP of sales, or product user? Does your product or service align with the ways that business is being done in a digitized world, helping to make your company more successful as a result?
Further peeling back the decision-making layers, more than 50 percent of internal decision makers are typically millennials (born from 1981—1996, 22—37 years old). This generation has never known life without the internet and they are huge early adopters of technology and automation. They are tolerant, confident, and highly socially networked. They utilize technology for the majority of their research, which has an outsized influence on their decision-making processes.
As B2B or B2C buyers, millennials conduct an average of 12 searches on a company or product before making a final decision. They use all forms of mobile devices, from phones and watches to tablets. They often refer to online reviews and actively peruse videos on websites and social platforms to learn about products and services. For millennials, social approval is a major decision-making factor.
Given their influences, it’s no wonder millennials expect the companies that they work for and buy from to have digital technologies available that allow them to perform their responsibilities to the fullest. They prefer companies that are committed to technological growth because it makes them more productive and fulfilled.
Millennials are the next generation that will be inheriting or buying baby boomer-created enterprises. Because of their digital experiences as consumers, you can count on them taking these businesses to the next level of customer engagement and response with technologies and automation.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) selling
In the B2C arena, influencers and decision makers have new skill sets and expectations as to how business gets done. If your business was founded decades ago, keeping up with technology is absolutely necessary.
Does your company have a compelling and informative website? Are your prospects and customers able to find you easily on any device, through any digital channel, and can they get the information that they need quickly? Are they able to communicate with your frontline representatives and get short-turnaround answers and help? And what do online reviews say about your company—and how does your company respond to negative reviews?
Do your sales teams respond to inquiries and opportunities immediately? Do they have mobile customer relationship management (CRM) solutions on mobile devices to alert them to customer journey milestones and triggers, and are they trained to respond by adding value to the customer experience?
If you are a primarily business-to-consumer brick and mortar business, what is the first impression your customers have when they walk in your door? Are you using electronics at the store-level to engage and inform your customers and to prove that you are a progressive and relevant provider of your goods or services?
Be sure that your business is positioned to capitalize on the generational transition now underway in order to ensure your long-term success for generations to come.