This week I presented to a group of sales people in the financial sector on how to layer on a generational perspective to the sales process. We discussed ways in which sales people could and should adjust their selling techniques to attract and engage all four generations of customers and clients. The audience, which was heavily Baby Boomer and Gen X voiced some concern around the energy, time and effort required to find Gen Y clients and if it was worth their effort.
Building Your Client Pipeline
In any business, you need to build a pipeline of potential customers. While your current client base is the best place to look for expanding business opportunities and gaining referrals, new client acquisition is always important. In traditional type businesses where selling takes place face to face, over many months, by building a trusting and personal relationship the idea that a client can be gained by having a Facebook page seems unlikely.
However, the need to engage different types of customers in different types ways is a business imperative now. It’s not that younger clients won’t want to form relationships or won’t be loyal, but how they demonstrate those things will be different than previous generations. If you take a one size fits all approach to client acquisition, you may be missing opportunities to engage a younger client base.
The Effort & The Outcomes
The feedback from some experienced sales people is that there are several obstacles to gaining younger clients. They include:
- The time required to learn new technologies (i.e. social media)
- Learning to network with younger clients in a different way
- Being prepared to answer more questions about their process / fees / products
- The need to maintain the relationship on an on-going basis versus having a life-long client
- Reduced customer loyalty
- Being accessible outside of core business hours
- Helping clients be comfortable with dealing with other employees on the team
For some, the effort doesn’t justify the outcomes…yet. It may be the case that servicing your existing client base, in the same way you always have, is good enough. But will that be sustainable? Will you be able to build a client pipeline that way? What will be the outcomes if you don’t plant the seeds now for you to harvest later?
Not adjusting / modifying / enhancing your sales process is risky when we know that Gen Ys are becoming a more influential and powerful customer base every year. They expect that organizations will:
- Engage customers – create a conversation & dialogue
- Reward customers – for repeat purchases / ‘long-term’ relationships / referrals
- Be true – deliver on your promises
- Act on suggestions – solicit direct feedback via social media and adapt accordingly
What will be the outcome if you don’t have Gen Y clients in the future? Will you be playing catch-up to building a reputation that will attract new clients?
Yes, there may be time, energy and resources required to invest in building relationships today that translate into long-term clients in the future. You will inevitably win some and lose some. Nothing is a guarantee in sales, but not adapting to your client needs is the quickest way to become obsolete. Evaluate who your profitable clients are now and who you expect them to be in the future. Consider how their needs are similar and different and what you will need to start, stop and continue doing.
Gen Ys are fantastic viral marketers. If they think you are a great service provider or you sell an amazing product they will gladly share their positive thoughts with their pack – which can include hundreds of people. Your brand’s reputation can be impacted, positively or negatively, with just a few clicks, Tweets or posts. Be aware of how your future clients will perceive you and invest now to be in a place where decision makers and influencers will go in the future.
As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.