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Blog: Closing the Sales Generation Gap

By Bridget McCrea

There’s a generation gap between the way an electrical distributor’s products have traditionally been sold and how today’s younger customers want to be sold to. This void often surfaces when veteran sales representatives come face-to-face with Generation X and Millennial/Generation Y buyers who are used to getting their information in digestible, Cliff Notes-style chunks versus listening to an entire sales spiel over an hour-long business lunch.

“If all you do is quote facts and figures to Gen X and Y customers, you’ve lost them before you even started,” says Scott McKain, president at McKain Performance Group, Inc., in Henderson, Nev. “We’re in an era where trying to sell products and services the way you ‘always have’ just doesn’t work anymore – especially when the person on the other side of the equation is 50 or younger.”

Speaking Their Language
Reps who are ready to close the generation gap and begin speaking the language of their younger customers – and dealing with them on their own terms – should start by understanding that what’s worked historically probably isn’t going to work any longer. And don’t just focus on selling harder, says McKain, but rather on selling in a smarter, more targeted fashion that really speaks to the intended audience.

Adding one or two younger sales reps to a team can go a long way in helping the distributor gain better footing with Gen X and Y buyers, says McKain. “Ask them how they like to be sold to,” he advises, “and use the information they share to better hone your sales approach.” If, for example, a 20-something rep prefers text communication and mobile phone ordering capabilities, then the odds are good that a customer in the same age range will have similar preferences.

Breaking the Mold
McKain says that simply embracing new technology and web options can help position sales reps and their companies as more Gen X- and Gen Y-friendly. Don’t be the guy who’s proud that his company isn’t on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, says McKain. Instead, invest a few hours a week in setting up and maintaining a presence on these and other social media platforms.

“One of the best ways to speak to younger customers on their level right now is by being active on social media,” says McKain. “Don’t be afraid to test out new strategies and approaches because what’s ‘always worked’ for your reps may no longer be the ticket to a competitive advantage.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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