LinkedIn’s 2020 Trends to Watch report recently noted two key influences to hiring and retaining talent are a company’s focus on employee experience and the ability to manage a multigenerational workforce. As more millennials join Generation X in positions of power at B2B companies, baby boomers are exiting the market and welcoming Generation Y as new workers. Each generation is unique in how they communicate, how they make decisions, and how they interface with technology. These attributes are important to note in hiring, buying, selling, and managing employees in the B2B industry.
Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences making up the modern workforce and how this information will influence your workplace culture, operations, and customer relationships.
This is the most senior generation working today, making up about 25 percent of the workforce. Boomers include individuals born from 1946 to 1964, now aged 56-76 years old. As more Americans postpone retirement to continue working, many baby boomers today occupy B2B leadership roles. This is a big win for B2B businesses! With several years of industry experience, boomers can mentor junior sales professionals, while also learning new technologies and tools from younger members of the workforce. Boomers can leverage their years of experience managing relationships, achieving sales goals, and navigating common challenges in the B2B sector to help coach younger professionals. Many boomers are interested in purposeful work and providing these employees an opportunity to mentor colleagues can give them a distinct way to give back.
Members of the baby boomer generation often have an optimistic perspective, an affinity for teamwork, and are incredibly dedicated to their work. Their competitive drive is a tremendous attribute in B2B sales where companies may frequently introduce new products, services, and technologies that require employees to learn new things. Boomers are motivated by their sense of duty to perform their job well and therefore will work hard to master the material. Every B2B buyer wants to work with a sales team that has expert-level knowledge of how the company and product or service can address their needs and challenges. An informed salesperson is best prepared to answer buyer questions, anticipate upselling and cross-selling opportunities, and assist with troubleshooting technical issues. Boomers can be excellent problem solvers, drawing on their professional history with projects and relationships, to advise junior salespeople on what has worked and any new possibilities.
As B2B consumers, baby boomers prioritize insight from industry analysts and colleagues within the organization before making a purchase choice. Sellers then may engage B2B influencers and public relations tactics to educate buyers on products and services. In addition, Boomers enjoy learning about products and services through traditional media such as radio, television, magazines, and newspapers. While the way people consume content has evolved, these channels remain effective and serve as a reminder that B2B companies should include a diverse mix of traditional and digital communication methods when selling. Personal referrals are often a strong driver of sales and the B2B industry is no different. This is why it’s important for salespeople to build relationships with multiple professionals at a target company – the more people that can speak positively about your relationship with the company and the product or service, can help convert a prospect into a sale.
Generation X (also known as “Gen X”) followed boomers into the workforce and are defined as individuals born between 1965 and 1980, currently aged 40-55 years old. Learning from the workaholic nature of baby boomers, work-life balance is a high priority for Gen Xers who seek tools and technologies that enable them to efficiently perform their job. B2B marketing and sales rely heavily on how well sellers know, understand, and relate to prospects and buyers. This resulted in the development of many new technologies and the ability to automate some sales tasks, while others still require a personal touch. Striking the right blend of the two is essential to reaching your target audience. Gen X B2B consumers depend on company websites, industry analysts, events, and in-person interactions to identify and review products or services that can help grow their business.
Gen Xers constitute about 33 percent of the workforce today, many of which are currently in positions of power and authority. This generation brings a great deal of skepticism when evaluating sales pitches and responds best to an informal sales approach. Similar to boomers, Gen Xers favor traditional media with limited use of social media and digital assets during the sales process. However, Gen Xers are more digitally-savvy than boomers. Both generations prefer to connect with B2B salespeople and learn about products or services through industry trade shows, phone calls, and face-to-face communications. These direct points of contact allow boomers and Gen Xers to efficiently connect with people [not technology] to get the information they’re after when making a purchase decision.
Despite often being described as the “forgotten generation,” Gen Xers are very loyal to businesses that treat them well. B2B sellers should emphasize the use of thank you notes, online product or service reviews, coupons, and personalized promotions when pursuing these buyers.
The most talked-about generation is Generation Y, commonly referred to as “millennials.” Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials are 20-31 years old as of this year and comprise 35 percent of the labor force. An increasing number of millennials are in positions of authority and decision-making. In fact, 1 in 10 millennials purchase products or services for their company and 1 in 3 millennials influence the purchase process with their research and opinions. B2B sellers should have a strong command of the customer journey, knowing the right moment to serve prospects with the necessary information to close a sale or upsell customers.
As digital natives, it’s no surprise that millennials gravitate to social media, websites, SMS, and other electronic communications to conduct their own research when buying B2B products and services. As a result, B2B sellers want to make sure there’s accurate and comprehensive information about products and services on the company website. If the website is not up-to-date, your company runs the risk of losing the sale because the millennial buyer could not find the information they were seeking. Content pieces such as case studies, whitepapers, blog posts, and infographics should be shared on company social media channels to educate target audiences on the benefits of your product or service. While millennials use social media for research, they also are more inclined than older generations to share company content on their own social channels. This bodes well for boomers and Gen Xers who value personal recommendations when making a B2B purchase. A millennial-aged B2B salesperson could post a message on Facebook and attract new customers to your product or service.
Like boomers, millennials are competitive and achievement-oriented. They take great pride in their work while also placing an emphasis on work-life balance. Millennials’ close relationship with technology has paved the way for personalization where they expect B2B sales pitches and communications to speak to their individual needs and preferences. It’s not enough to get an email addressed to them by name; the content should specifically convey how your product or service is the solution for them.
The youngest generation in the workplace, Generation Z (also known as “i-Gen” or “Gen Z”) are currently no older than 23 years old, having been born between 1997 and 2012. This is a smaller employee population for most B2B companies, yet it’s good to become more knowledgeable about iGen in order to best prepare for the future.
This generation is extremely comfortable with technology because it’s the world they know. Gen Zers grew up reading books on tablets and playing games on their parents’ devices. As self-starters, they use technology to conduct their own B2B product or service research online, preferring YouTube videos to a sales pitch. Influencer marketing, messaging applications, social media, content marketing, and peer-to-peer referrals will grow in popularity as more of this generation enters the workforce and B2B sales tactics evolve to meet their communication preferences. The industry’s reliance on digital communications to connect with customers during the B2B sales process will further drive demand for personalized experiences. Gen Zers are comfortable with the automation of some communications, though they want to know the “human” behind it too.
From mentorship and an increased knowledge base, to automated processes and the employment of new communication channels, B2B companies see a multigenerational workforce as a means of growing revenue and strengthening customer relationships. Your investment in learning more about the four distinct generations that make up the current labor market – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and iGen – provides beneficial insight that will improve your B2B sales and buying.
To grow revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and retain top talent, you need to create a company culture and develop strategies that address the wants and needs of your employees and customers. ServiceSource employs over 3,000 representatives speaking 45 different languages across 170 countries worldwide. Learn more about how our inside sales, customer success, channel development, and revenue retention solutions can help you.