"Customer" used to be a one-size-fits-all word in sales. Either someone bought from you or they didn’t, and the steps you implemented to make a sale didn’t change all that much from one person to the next.
It’s not like that anymore. Today’s marketplace is the most fragmented it’s ever been. Beyond segmenting buyers by role and what they care about, we need to assess the mindset that today’s buyer brings to the sales process. And each requires its own approach so you give each what they need so you can accelerate your sales.
These mindsets tend to be tied to the age of the buyer but I’m not saying you need to organize your customers strictly into generational boxes. But there are four common characteristics found in each age group in today’s marketplace that teach us something about the way we need to change the way we sell to reach more people and connect with them meaningfully in the way they want you to.
The loyalist mindset
This group is mostly populated by the eldest working members of society. They’re either retired or on the cusp of retirement and they have an overwhelming desire to find others whose values match their own. When they find it, they reward it with fierce loyalty and will tell you that repeatedly. When they find those values lacking, they don’t stick around and won’t tell you why. Selling to people in this mindset means you need to invest a lot of time developing a personal touch: sending handwritten thank-you cards and having a lot of face-to-face conversations. This is also the group that’s most prone to be nostalgic about their own careers, so they appreciate it the most when you take the time to show up for them and look after all the extra little details that go into a sale or servicing a product or service post-sale.
The harried mindset
Comprised mostly of Baby Boomers, this group has a long history (and an expectation) of having their needs met, because until recently they were the largest generational segment of the population. They are impatient. Having fought aggressively throughout their careers to get promoted and get noticed, “harried mindset” people expect sellers to work noticeably harder than others to win them over. Responsiveness means more to them than personalization. They also happen to be incredibly tired! Selling to this group hinges on you being able to take the time to educate and simplify so that the buyer doesn’t have to do any of the research legwork. They want things explained to them in a way that makes it easy for them to make a buying decision right now.
The skeptical mindset
Beware of this group: they know as much—if not more—about your product as you do. Consisting mostly of people in the Generation X group, these are people who have spent much of their lives not counting on others doing things for them. When it comes to product research as a buyer, they do the legwork not because they have to, but because they want to. As skeptics, they mistrust anything they didn’t work on themselves. The only effective way you can sell to people who share this mindset is to provide them with a preponderance of facts and research and then let them decide for themselves. In terms of promises, don’t expect your word alone will count for much: they look to outside opinions and value those third-party reviews more than any amount of advertising you could ever possibly spend.
The collaborative mindset
Last but not least, there are the buyers in the Millennial and Generation Y groups. This is the biggest group in our working community now and growing! As such, they are dramatically changing the way we sell and how their companies buy. And, much like their parents, they are used to having their needs met. Their expectations are very high!
Unlike others, this group feeds on collaboration much like the way fire consumes oxygen. It’s a necessary condition for there to be any kind of purchase. That means when presenting a business case, they don’t want to be told what the solution is: they demand to be part of defining the solution. Selling to this group means you have to ensure you provide an incredible amount of detail about all the options that are available and consult them tirelessly throughout the decision-making process.
These four mindsets, four needs and four approaches form a blueprint for a new way of looking at your sales process. It’s a more segmented approach that recognizes a new reality in today’s marketplace: that the expectations of the buyer are in the driver’s seat, not the needs of the seller.