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How to Sell to the Next Generation

I sat in on the Business-to-Business Selling and the Emerging Generations session at the Industrial Supply Association's Product Show and Conference this week in Indianapolis. Robert Wendover of the Center for Generational Studies spoke to a full room about how to "sell to and service the most diverse, wired, impatient, skeptical, demanding, fun-loving customers in history."

One highlight – he covered how distributors can maintain a connection with younger customers and workers, which he termed "emerging":

  1. Ask about their preferred ways to communicate, asking questions such as How do you spend your day?, How do you go about searching for services?, and  What information can we provide that you generally don't receive without asking?
  2. Develop a regimen of providing tips and resources. One way to do this is to start a blog on your site, or post a series of articles or just quick tips on your website.
  3. Communicate on their preferred platforms. If your customer prefers to email or to use online chat, that's what you should use, too.

Of course, he says communication efforts should go both ways, listing a series of steps the "emerging generation" should take in the workplace or with suppliers to improve the relationship:

  1. Invest time to build relationships.
  2. Be prepared to assist in the digital realm.
  3. Consider your examples and your vernacular, ie, make sure what you're saying and referring to is understood by the person you are communicating with.
  4. Seek older generations' counsel, and recognize they have years of experience to speak from.
  5. Make yourself visible within their circles, ie, go to the occasional cocktail or networking event and get to know others in the industry.
  6. Assist them in connecting with other "emerging" professionals such as yourself.

"There's got to be a reaching in both directions," Wendover said.

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