Today's guest post is by Jennifer Stanley, Associate Principle (Marketing and Sales Practice) at McKinsey & Company. Hear her speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 16.
What kind of relationship will you have with purchasing agents in 2020?
Consider this: by that time, Millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce. That means the people you’re selling to will likely have different styles, preferences, and habits from your current buyers. But this generation is already in the workforce and having a massive impact on how people do business. This development is one of the critical megatrends shaping sales today.
Millennials have grown up in an era of easy access to just about any type of information and a greater willingness to share their personal information with strangers. To cater to this type of buyer, it’s important to be proactive. They expect you to research them and their business before you meet or make contact. Existing buyers expect you to keep up with the evolving landscape of personal and corporate information that is available 24/7. They want you to really understand how your solution will help them personally succeed in achieving their individual goals, as well as their procurement-department objectives.
To better connect with the Millennial buyer, there are four actions you should take now if you haven't already.
1 Get social.
Millennials are omnipresent on digital platforms and expect others to be, too. Your customers and prospects are regularly viewing your company’s (and your) presence on various platforms – LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc. According to our research, 75 percent of Millennials use social networking as a primary communication tool versus 30 percent of baby boomers and 50 percent of Generation Xers.
If you aren’t proficient in social selling, you need to start now. That means improving your professional presence on social media. More importantly, start tuning in to and tracking appropriate conversations about relevant topics and your target procurement officers on social media.
2 Help the buyer shine.
Think about at least three ways you're going to help this person win. Don't stop with understanding what his or her department objective is for the year, i.e., the typical saving a set percentage off of last year’s procurement spend. Help this person achieve his or her own goals. Can your solution contribute to a promotion? Can you introduce your customer to a new professional or social network?
3 Cut your standard pitch by 70 percent.
Better yet, get rid of all paper and put your pitch in an app, a video, or some form of interactive digital material. Our 2012 B2B Customer Survey indicated that at least 35 percent of prepurchase activities happen on digital channels.
Creating that digital experience for the customer is critical to standing out in a positive light. Clearly there will be customer-specific requirements for RFPs (the typical Excel spreadsheet requesting cost decomposition comes to mind), but look for ways to be relevant and helpful to your audience. For example, you could embed links in the spreadsheet that take a buyer to more detailed information housed on a dedicated, tailored Website.
4 Be a connector.
Despite what can sometimes feel like an “us versus them” world, the procurement officer is looking for mutually advantageous relationships. Your responsibility is to help this person cultivate those relationships with your company.
One way is to link procurement officers to relevant video content from leading industry thinkers or other customers. Purchasers may further share that information, expanding the reach of your message.
Ignoring these ways to meet the needs of Millennial purchasers puts you at risk of being hopelessly out of touch and hopelessly out of the deal.