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Meet the Millennials: Today’s B2B Buyer

As the largest and one of the most talked about generations in the modern U.S. workforce, millennials have brought big changes to the B2B marketplace. The generation’s unique experience and perspective have positively influenced the B2B buying process, making it more personal and more informative. A recent report from Forrester notes that 73% of millennials are involved with B2B purchasing decisions. Even if you’re not already selling to millennial customers, you will be very soon. Companies need to evaluate and adapt their sales approach to capitalize on this demographic shift and meet the demands of today’s consumer. Let’s discuss how you can get started.

Who Are They?

Millennials are defined as individuals currently aged 22 to 38 years old. While this generation has received criticism in the media for some characteristics, many distinctive and rewarding attributes are often overlooked. Four celebrated attributes of the millennial persona are:

  • Digital-First: Millennials and digital technology grew up together. From mobile to tablet, laptop, and desktop devices, to email, the web, social media, search engines, and online review sites, technology is second nature for millennials. In fact, 38 percent of millennials admit to having the “latest and greatest” personal technology devices, demonstrating the importance they put on this tech. Millennials’ comfort with digital also influences their eagerness and flexibility in using and learning new technologies to perform their daily work.
  • Education-Driven: More millennials have enrolled and graduated with college degrees than prior generations. Their approach to evaluating opportunities is guided by a desire to be very informed. Millennials research online and through referrals from trusted friends or colleagues. Highly educated, many millennials are lifelong learners who proactively seek out ways to grow and evolve their careers. This pursuit of higher education drove an increase in student loans. An accumulation of debt, paired with the 2008 financial crisis, shaped millennials’ perspective on the value of money and good fiscal stewardship. They are reluctant to purchase things they cannot afford and as buyers, they are interested in price transparency and value.
  • Socially-Motivated: Idealistic and altruistic, millennials are changemakers that care about social issues and get involved in advocacy. Nearly half of millennials in the B2B industry want to work for and with companies that demonstrate a commitment to society and support environmental, philanthropic, and social causes. However, less than half of millennials believe executives are actually committed to social improvements.
  • Speedy: This 80-million-strong generation believes that digitally-delivered responses and resources are much faster than meeting or calling to get the task at hand completed. Millennials expect seamless integration and personalized experiences, and fast. If a millennial B2B buyer needs to wait too long on details about a product or service, they are likely to move on to another option.

No content? No sales.

Millennials in the workplace use these attributes to remain knowledgeable, engaged, efficient, and innovative in their careers. The B2B industry employs millions of millennials, with more and more taking new jobs daily. If your buyer is part of this generation, how do you need to adjust your selling approach?

Millennial B2B buyers prefer to research vendors and products on their own before engaging with a sales representative. They’re typically more than halfway (57%) through the buying process before they’re willing to connect with a sales rep. Research is primarily conducted digitally – mostly on mobile devices – using Internet search engines, social media channels, vendor websites, and review sites.

Online search is likely a millennial’s first step in researching B2B vendors. That’s why content can be such a powerful selling tool, as it optimizes your website and blog so prospects can easily find you and learn more about your products and services. Most B2B searches start with universal keywords and then narrow to a product or service. After an average of 12 online searches, millennial B2B buyers will home in on specific vendors. The best way for your products and services to rank strongly for particular search terms is to provide useful content around the topic – and a lot of it.

Since millennials are reading up on your products and services before you even speak to them, the frequency and quality of your content is important when selling B2B products and services. Content pieces should be designed to accommodate best for mobile review, including – length, page layout, and type of images and videos. Video is millennials’ most preferred medium to research B2B products and services. They care less about company news and thought leadership; and instead prioritize training, demos, and product news as significant topics to consider in the sales process. Millennials want to ask questions right away during a training or demonstration, and they appreciate being able to see how the product or service functions before talking to a salesperson. In fact, millennials rank content in this order of preference based on how engaging, succinct, and visually engaging the marketing piece is:

  1. Online Videos
  2. Infographics
  3. Case Studies
  4. Whitepapers
  5. Brochures
  6. Webinars

Much like training and demos, company videos provide instant access and demonstrate authenticity by allowing the buyer to see and hear about the product/service before committing further. According to Think With Google, nearly half of all potential B2B buyers watch 30 minutes or more of B2B-related videos throughout the purchase process. Consider adding more visual-forward tutorials, product demos, and marketing messages to your customer journey experience (CJX) to keep millennial buyers captivated throughout the journey.

Get Social!

Millennials continue to research vendors on social media sites, with women choosing Facebook and men preferring YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter. What they’re looking for on social media is information on a company’s social responsibility program and insight as to how the company treats its employees. Social stewardship may not directly impact the utility of the actual product or service, but it’s important to keep in mind that millennials heavily evaluate this before making purchase decisions.

Online review websites like Glassdoor (recruiting), Consumer Reports (products), or Yelp (services) are also a resource for millennials in the B2B buying process. Review sites provide instant insights based on someone else’s first-hand experience with a product or service. Millennials value referrals and advice from peers and colleagues in the market as a means of getting a firm understanding of a product or service’s limitations, benefits, and pricing. As a B2B business, highlight testimonials, encourage online reviews, and respond in real-time to the reviews you receive. The feedback you receive from these can help you improve the sales process and/or product or service, and interaction with customers shows that you actually care.

What This Means for You

This insight provides B2B sellers a great advantage when working with millennials. Companies with a strong understanding of their audience can provide more targeted messaging at the right moment to ensure a successful sale. Demographic and psychographic insights are valuable in up-selling customers and converting them into loyalists. Try integrating more content marketing into your selling cycle, connect and interact with prospects on social media, and be sure your company website is up to date with current product, service, and pricing information. Also consider adding online features such as chatbots and client video testimonials to appeal to time-sensitive and tech-savvy millennial B2B buyers.

Businesses today must adapt to evolving workforce dynamics in order to survive. Millennials have high expectations for vendors, and they will walk away if they aren’t happy or their needs aren’t being met. B2B sales is relationship-driven, and the process of purchasing a product or service is an experience. The more informative, personalized, and convenient the buying experience is, the more likely you are to win that customer. Engage with millennial B2B buyers on their terms, and watch your revenue grow.

As the B2B purchase power of millennials increases, learn how ServiceSource can elevate your inside sales efforts. ServiceSource helps companies worldwide identify and nurture higher-quality leads, close deals, increase revenue, and improve customer satisfaction. Download our free Inside Sales whitepaper today to learn more about the current B2B sales environment and how you can adapt.

Nick Herff

Author

Nick Herff