Sales Techniques That Assist in Selling to Generation Y

by Drew Stevens - Date: 2008-08-08 - Word Count: 890 Share This!

Copyright (c) 2008 Drew Stevens PhD

For many selling professionals and sales managers selling effectively has become a cumbersome task. The proliferation of the electronic media and instant availability of products and services allows more power into the hands of clients. However, there is one area where the selling professional can achieve more effectiveness by trends and social issues. One of the largest yet daunting areas of research today relates to the Millennials or aptly called Generation Y.

To achieve greater selling effectiveness, professionals must realize that we operate in a multi-cultural, multi-gendered and multi-generational workforce. For purposes of this article, our focus relates to generational issues. Many selling professionals, consultants and employers have not taken into consideration that four generations exist in the workforce. There exists:

-Veterans = 20 Million/ages 65 and above

-Baby Boomer = 65 Million /ages 47 - 60

-Generation X = 50 Million /ages 38 - 45

-Generation Y = 78 Million /21 - 40

The manner which each purchases is based on behavior and values. To achieve selling excellence it is imperative to quickly comprehend the value differentiation of each.


Veterans have important buying power and been doing so for well over 50 years. These groups because of many socially historical issues usurp brand value. This group tends to remain very loyal to products, services, and do not like change. More importantly, their age creates a need for physical relationship and they find instant communication frustrating.


The 78 million Americans who were 50 or older approximately 5 years ago controlled $28 trillion, or 67% of the country's wealth. This group has tremendous buying power. However, this group ages by the moment as many Boomers worry about retirement and savings. This group resists spending during economic uncertainty since they pay with cash not credit. To achieve sales excellence it is imperative for selling professionals to create a bond with Boomers.

Generation X

Generation X makes up about 17% of the U.S. population and range in age from 38 to approximately 45 years of age. This generation is very open to technology yet is also well educated. If they need information they know where to get it so selling professionals need to illustrate differentiation. Generation X wants issues resolved expediently and deplore lengthy "sales pitches" in favor of solutions. Coincidentally, the dearth of email has Generation X desirous of personal interaction and paper correspondence. Selling effectiveness is uncompromised using more traditional marketing means.

Generation Y/Millennials

The largest and clearly the most influential group of purchasers since the Baby Boomers, Generation Y is on the minds of many selling and marketing professionals. With 78 million potential buyers, it is impossible to avoid this large group. They are influential, have the money to spend and there are many of them. Generation Y are very well educated. As a group, they believe in real time connection with the Internet a Must medium. Generation Y is all about instant connectivity and most importantly instant gratification.

Our research in this area finds these influential areas pivotal for effectively selling to Generation Y.

Cool. Online and print medium require change. Generation Y desires importance and self-actualization. They buy the now and the hottest item on the market. Those that follow this trend will thrive. Avatars such as Apple are very proactive in this area. Sales of iPods and iPhones flourish. Generation Y desires to be part of the experience. Selling to them requires a value proposition focused on current trends and social issues.

Brand. Generation Y differs from all prior generations. They are not brand loyal. Due to the increased connectivity, Generation Y follows social trends. Millennials have acute attention spans as they await the next trend. A recent Wall Street Journal article illustrates how Six Flags is aligning with Disney (movies and television shows) simply to capture the attention of the Millennials. Do not build a brand for them; rather, build a brand with them. Apple, Southwest, FedEx, Facebook, Google all build products with advice from this influential group.

Content. Content is king. This is true for Millennials. The proliferation of Internet technology allows Generation Y instant access to information. Sellers must provide uniqueness with content not found through regular Internet channels. Further, since content travels at the speed of light selling effectiveness can increase with viral marketing.

Language. Generation Y uses different lexicon. Whereas the other generations use complete articulate sentences, Millennials speak in a language encrypted with message similar to the DaVinci code. Sellers must speak and connect to Millennials in their language.

Risk. The increase of viral marketing and information enable Millennials to take more risks then preceding generations. In fact, due mostly to youth, Millennials are riskier, they have less to lose. Sellers and marketers must challenge Millennials. Buyers represent three purchase groups' a) early adopters, b) followers c) not a chance. Generation Y devour risk by adopting the "cool" trends. Sellers must understand the trends to advise the consumer to be a recognized leader.

The need to dissect generations is vital to selling effectiveness. Today's sales professional requires the research skills of the finest detectives, uncovering every clue and unearthing every angle. Additionally, selling effectiveness requires spontaneous information leveraged by the lexicon of the contrary party. It is impracticable to estimate if each issue resonates with a Millennial. Sellers intuitively realize that trends continue to change. The only way to get ahead is to be a leader. Clearly as the Millennials mature there is another entourage. Selling effectiveness requires intuition, content, and resolve.

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