Four Generations – Four Types of Customers: Building Strong Customer Relationships

Image: Four Generations – Four Types of Customers: Building Strong Customer Relationships

Recognizing that Customers Can Be Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Ys

We recently did a session with sales representatives of a pharmaceutical company. The workshop focused on building strong relationships with customers from opening to probing to closing the sale. The participants recognized that they had a need to understand their customer base from a  multigenerational perspective. For many, they admitted that it was much easier to build relationships and sell within their generation than across different generations.

In any mature market, where there is a lot of competition, the relationship you have with customers can be a key differentiator in whether they choose your product or not.  In the world of consultative selling, strong relationships are critical to becoming a trusted advisor to customers.

Building Relationships with Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y Customers

Sales and service representatives, business development managers, client relationship managers, whatever the title may be, are noticing that the expectations of their customers have changed. As the old adage says ‘you need to sell and/or service your customers in the way they want to buy, not the way that you want to sell’. This means that you have to have a solid understanding of what is important to your customers and be able to recognize the differences. This includes recognizing generational differences.  Different generations of customers have differing expectations as they relate to sales and service.

Differing Sales and Service Expectations of Multigenerational Customers

For a Gen Y sales rep, s/he needs to be aware the level of formality/informality that might be acceptable to a Baby Boomer or Traditionalist. Texting or emailing casually back to a client ‘no worries, I’ll make sure it’s done’ may be factually true (the Gen Y will do it) but not acceptable business language. Conversely, if a Baby Boomer is constantly reaching out to Gen Xers to book face-to-face meetings, or even outings to give an ‘update’, that is likely not going to as effective with a Gen Xer client. The Gen Xer is thinking “send me an email with the information”, let’s get together when we need to action plan.

Does any generation care about your sales and service value add?

Every organization strives to add value to its customers. n-gen encourages you to ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who is your customer? If your customers are primarily Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, then maybe you don’t need as robust of a social media strategy as you think. No doubt that you need to have some presence, but you have to think about how your current customer wants a relationship built and how they want to receive information, while planning for your future customer.
  2. Who cares?  Which generation of customer cares about the value add that you offer? Are they impressed by meeting a senior person in your organization? Do they care about an external event (golf, conference, dinner at a expensive restaurant), or do they see it as negative time taken away from their families? If you have a robust website, what is the information value-add?
  3. Can you offer the value add in a different way? If being seen as a mentor and connector in your industry is a value-add, does it need to be done in person? Could you offer the same service just-in-time through technology?
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