Selling to the Different Generations: What to Look For and What to Avoid

It really amazes me on how differently the generations behave in terms of their buying motivations and their spending habits. Although everyone is unique, we can clearly see a generalization among age groups. I believe these differences come from peoples surroundings and their influences consequently we are a product of our environment.

Let's have a look at some of the trends we see in the last few generations assuming a breakdown as follows:

Baby Boomer 1946-1964

Generation X 1965-1980

Generation Y 1981-2000

Baby Boomer 1946-1964

Generation X 1965-1980

Generation Y 1981-2000

Motivated by hard work and success

Motivated by WIFM (what's in it for me?)

Characterized by self esteem

Loyal to company: good job with salary and benefits = set for life

Loyal to profession

Loyal to self

Live to work

Work to live

Work/life balance

Make up 42% of the workforce

50% less than baby boomers

Echo Boomers

Grew up in a tough but stable post war world

Grew up with the dissolution of the family

Grew up with technology and the internet

Independent and rebellious

Self sufficient at an early age

High performance and high maintenance

Focus on civil rights and individual liberties

Focus on music, clothing & environment

Focus on multitasking & multiculturalism

Live to work

Work to live

Work/life balance

Knowing this, one thing that we have to understand is that everyone is unique and everyone has different motivators, wants & needs. These generational differences act as a guide i.e. we don't want to sell the benefits of a good job with security and benefits and a job for life to a Gen Y. They would go crazy working with the same company for 35 years.

It used to be appear to be a benefit to show long term stability in a job. Someone would look at your resume and see that you have been with the same company for 25 years and think that you show great loyalty and stability. Now when someone sees that on a resume they wonder why you have no motivation to do anything else. In today's standards if someone is to stay with a job for 3-5 years, that is seen to be great loyalty.

So how do we sell to these very different types of people? We know that we can't take the cookie cutter approach. What then will appeal to each group?

Study the differences in the generations and look at the products and services that you are selling. Who do they appeal to? Who is your target audience? Can you appeal to all of the generations or should you focus on one or two of them. These are decisions you have to make as every product or service is unique in its application.

If you read this article and it causes you to make any changes in your marketing procedures, please let me know.

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Kiven Wenman is a Sales Manager in the recruitment/financial industry & Sales Coach specializing in helping his clients reach their full potential. Kiven takes an introspective approach, helping his clients step outside of themselves in order to have a clear look back inside to see themselves as others perceive them. Kiven has lead sales people in both tangible and intangible sales and is driven by the results in the success of those around him.

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