Throughout history, generational shifts have impacted how companies sell, advertise, and conduct business. For example, Baby Boomers led B2B sales reps to conduct cold calls and in-person visits, while Gen X-ers introduced the practice of companies emailing prospects.
Today, millennials are the largest and fastest-growing generation in the American workforce. As the first generation who grew up with the internet, they have entirely different B2B purchasing behaviors — no longer are buyers at the mercy of salespeople.
So, how has B2B buying behavior changed in the age of review sites, digital marketing, and an increasingly competitive market? How can B2B companies prepare for a slow influx of young technology natives in the workforce?
Who Are Millennials?
We’ve heard so much about millennials — lovers of avocado toast, killers of luxury goods, and the first generation in U.S. history to be financially worse off than their parents.
But this may come as a surprise: 73% of millennials in the B2B industry are involved with purchasing decisions and processes on behalf of their companies. In fact, a third are the sole decision-maker. Millennials aren’t just entering the workforce at an astonishingly high rate, they’re joining companies that are actively roping them into purchasing decisions.
If you’re not engaging with younger clientele in sales conversations right now, that will likely change in the years to come. In other words, it’s high time for B2B brands to understand the motivation, habits, and trends of these millennial buyers.
Look At The Whole Funnel
Unlike older generations, millennials are used to topsy-turvy customer journeys. Take a moment to evaluate all your marketing channels:
- Website. Is it intuitive, easy-to-navigate, and mobile-friendly? Take it to the next step by providing content on topics beyond your products and services: customer success stories, research study infographics, or even thought leadership ebooks. With a bit of effort, you can easily transform your website into a hub of industry expertise and knowledge.
- Social media. Social media can be a great opportunity to connect with existing and potential customers. Use it to provide customer service, engage in industry conversations, and showcase your products in a less polished, more relatable way.
- Sales channels. Equip your salespeople with the training and technology needed to truly wow your prospects. Whether it’s by offering free trials, personalized product demos, or interactive tools that provide pricing tiers based on needs, you’ll want to make sure that your company is delivering a seamless experience.
- Review websites. For millennials, review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are the backbone of all the decisions they make. B2B purchasing is no exception. You’ll want to make sure that your company and product information on review sites such as TrustRadius and Capterra are consistent and up-to-date. If your page is looking a little lackluster, consider launching a campaign that asks your best customers to leave you a review. However tempting it may be, never, ever fake a review — public trust in your company will plummet.
Salespeople? Maybe Later
Because millennials are keen on doing personal research before committing to buying, they’re not inclined to reach out to salespeople immediately. Some studies show that millennial buyers are only willing to interact with sales reps when they’ve completed 57% of the purchasing process. When they do eventually engage, 79% say it is crucial that salespeople play the role of a trusted advisor.
As a result, B2B companies must restructure their sales process to reflect these new behaviors and demands. Consider reallocating dollars for top-of-funnel cold calls to end-funnel support for when prospects need help. You’ll want to be less pushy and overbearing, more helpful and empathetic.
Develop a culture of transparency within the sales team. Millennial buyers won’t be looking for salespeople to pitch to them; instead, they’ll be looking for pricing negotiations, honest answers, and validation for the information they’ve already collected. To develop long-term relationships with your younger customers, you’re better off being upfront about your product’s capabilities and limitations.
Humanize Your Branding
If you’re still struggling to convert your millennial customers, take a moment to do an audit of your brand. Does it come off as cold or too function-focused — do you use “you” or “we” in your communications? Does your website successfully explain how your products solve common pain points? Is your company actively contributing to the community you serve (think: charitable efforts or community sponsorships)?
Ultimately, you’ll want your branding and all that comes with it — your website, products, value propositions, and even the way your sales team interacts with prospects — to exude warmth and empathy. After all, branding is merely a reflection of the relationship a company has with its customers. If you’re feeling worried, it may be time for a brand revamp.
You’re All Set
TLDR: Millennials are driving significant changes in the B2B space. Unfortunately, many companies may not yet be equipped to handle the millennial expectation of a seamless digital sales journey that supports self-research in a transparent and personalized way.
Ultimately, to appeal to these young buyers, B2B sellers must adopt digital tools and transform their sales culture. And it’ll be well worth it — if you manage to wow a millennial buyer, they’re more likely to recommend you to their peers or leave a positive review.
If you’re looking for a partner to support your efforts, shoot us an email! We connect brands with their audiences in remarkable ways.