Are you selling across the generations effectively?

All too often, we think we are being effective in a sales conversation, when we are really just getting on the nerves of the other person and “Ticking them OFF”.

We do not know it because we are violating Rule #1 of Generationally Savvy Selling: Communicate in the style of the person you seek to attract or persuade.

In order to “make the sale”, one must be diligent in seeking to understand the Generational CODES™ that shape the customer’s preferred sales style.  All things being equal, prevailing wisdom says people prefer to do business with people they know, like, and trust.  However, each generation has its own process and gestation cycle of deciding whom it likes and trusts in business and trying to communicate in your generational code ends up in a Generational Communication Breakdown™.
Here are two examples of Generational Communication Breakdown

Traditionalist Joanne: Joanne, a Traditionalist insurance agent, called to make an appointment to sell insurance that would cover our Millennial administrative assistant and me.  Although it was a small policy, she drove to my office and spent half an hour visiting with us before beginning the business of selling the insurance.  She then proceeded to explain all the options, filled out the forms with us, and mailed them in personally.  Our Millennial employee was shocked that she would take that much time for a small client and said, “How can she afford to spend that much time with each person?  She’ll never make a living that way.”

Gen Xer Zack: During a one-day Generationally Savvy Sales Training, a Gen Xer gentleman sitting in the front appeared to be vacillating between puzzled and jazzed.  He took copious notes throughout the training, and spent every break in the hall animatedly on the phone.  At the end of the day he said, “Thank you; I learned some really good things about Baby Boomers today.”  Two weeks later, Gen Xer Zack contacted me to say, “I have something I’ve got to tell you.  I did more business with Baby Boomers in January than I had done in all of last year.  I realized I have been talking to Boomers like a Gen Xer!

By trying to be respectful of their time, I was getting right to the facts and down to business.  I thought I was being patient, even though in my mind, I kept thinking, come on, come on, cut to the chase, bottom line it; let’s get it done!”  He continued, “After your seminar, I called my potential Boomer clients and asked whether they would like to have lunch or coffee and just spend time together.”  He laughed as he said, “I never would have thought to do that before.

I’ve been eating ten meals a day, but I’ve been closing deal after deal because I stopped communicating only like a Gen Xer.”  Zack said, “I finally get it!”  When I am working to attract Boomer clients, I need to shift into their generational style.”

What these two stories reflect are avoidable “Generational Communication Breakdowns”.

Joanne wanted to deliver world-class service that she knew would lead to not only long-term customer satisfaction, but also future referrals.  She was willing to invest the time in a small client to build that foundation.

Zack quickly wanted to show that he could offer bottom-line solutions, but he was stepping over the most vital stage of the sale for his Boomer clients, which is to build a strong interpersonal relationship– something Zack typically tries to avoid or at least reserves for people who have demonstrated enough value first.

Knowing when and how to adjust your communication style to match the other person can mean a sale and a relationship is built or it can mean there may not be a second chance to meet with the prospective client because we were “just ticking them off”.