We know millennials are a different breed of consumer.
Tech savvy … Socially conscious … Always connected … We know the cohort has driven B2C marketers worldwide to re-engineer their toolkits.
Less well documented is how the biggest generation since baby boomers is forcing a similar shift in the B2B world. Today, 46 percent of B2B buyers are millennials. It’s estimated the demographic will make up more than 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. And while some of their consumer buying habits transfer over to business purchases, many don’t.
You’ll be doing a lot of business with them. So how do you approach, say, a business lunch with a millennial buyer?
Despite their reputation as tech-dependent social misfits, millennials prefer a personal touch when researching B2B purchases. An IBM study found millennials rely primarily on in-person meetings with vendors when researching B2B suppliers. (By contrast, baby boomers rely more on tradeshows and conferences, and Gen Xers turn to third-party articles, blogs and reviews.)
And for millennial buyers, learning about your products and services isn’t the whole point. It’s as much about what it would be like working with you. When evaluating a vendor, millennial buyers most prize ease of doing business. So emphasize a fantastic client experience over competitive pricing or industry expertise, provided you have the customer service and support to back it up.
Phones on hand
Millennials grew up with mobile technology. They’re married to its immediacy and convenience. In fact, 87 percent of millennials claim their smartphone never leaves their side. One study found they check their phones an average of 43 times per day.
The mobile madness isn’t all about Facebook and selfies, though. Millennials rely on their devices to research everything from travel plans to — you guessed it — B2B purchases. And they expect to conduct business anytime, anywhere. That includes sending email queries or receiving a vendor proposal. So, rather than question the etiquette of phones on the table, take inventory of your mobile sales solutions.
Device preferences aside, your table talk won’t be their first impression of your company. Buyers are now nearly 60 percent of the way through the buying process by the time they engage with a vendor. Before your business lunch, your millennial buyer has visited your website, visited competitors’ websites, consumed a range of online content, and gathered intel from peers on social media. They’ve qualified you before you’ve had a chance to qualify them.
To earn your buyer’s trust — and business — anticipate their needs and their perceptions about your company. Follow the same research method your buyer did.
Closing the deal
After your lunch meeting, your buyer will revert back to remote interactions. Once armed with the information they need, 69 percent of millennials say they prefer email communications during the sales cycle. So give them some space to consider what’s on the table.
Read: avoid every-other-day phone follow-ups. Let them take the lead. Make it easy for them to reach you through social media, instant messaging, or live chat, and keep communications quick and uncomplicated. And don’t be afraid to close the deal digitally.
If you make the sale, feedback will come fast — but probably not by phone. Look instead on your company webpage or social channels. Satisfied millennial buyers are profuse with their praise on the social web. Sixty-nine percent say they leave positive feedback on vendor sites, and the same number share the love on social media.
Many, one suspects, may even do so while eating lunch.