How to Sell to Millennials & Gen Z (B2B): Selling to Millennials Explained
There’s no great mystery in selling to Millennials. But there are two keys to doing it well: speed and trust.
Let’s say you sign up for a product demo. You get on a call with a rep, and they start asking you discovery questions. As you mindlessly answer these repetitive questions, time runs out. The call ends with another date to see the real product demo, and you realize you wasted 30 minutes of your day answering questions and getting no answers for yourself.
This is (unfortunately) a familiar experience for many B2B buyers. And while it’s not particularly enjoyable for anyone, it’s especially irksome to Millennials and Gen Z’ers. So much so, in fact, that it could halt the buyer process altogether.
Today, 57 percent of today’s tech buyers are Millennials, and that number is only going to increase. Gen Z is also making an appearance, albeit a small one, as they reach their mid-twenties and gain authority in the workplace.
We sat down to talk with Noam Horenczyk of Walnut.io to see how companies can adapt their sales process to the Millennial buying process.
Who are Millennial Buyers?
While the sales process still requires most B2B buyers to reach out to a salesperson before they can even begin a purchase process, the millennial market is much more interested in gathering information on their own, viewing a product demo, or starting a free trial.
Who are Generation Z Buyers?
Older Gen Z’ers are now hitting their mid-twenties, and it won’t be long before more of them are the main purchase decision-makers in their workplace. Like Millennials, they also prefer real customer reviews to analyst rankings and reports—in fact, one study found that they are 30% less likely to trust analyst reports than Baby Boomers.
How B2B Buyer Needs Have Changed for Millennials and Generation Z
So, now that we know a bit about these new generations, how have their needs changed within the buyer journey?
Increased Desire for Self-Serve Options
The 2023 report from TrustRadius highlights a significant shift in the B2B buying process, emphasizing the growing trend of self-service. Key statistics from the report reveal:
- A nearly universal preference among buyers to self-serve at least part of the buying process.
- Access to free trials is important for 77 percent of buyers, demonstrating a preference for hands-on experience before purchase.
- Finally, the need for streamlined organization of buying research has resulted in 97 percent of buyers favoring a single, centralized resource for all their information.
These findings underscore the evolving landscape of B2B purchases, where buyers increasingly value autonomy and direct access to critical information.
Brand Trust Vs. Personal Relationships
In one Gartner study, it was found that 44 percent of Millennials prefer no sales rep interaction at all during the purchase process.
While wining and dining may have worked for Generation X or Baby Boomers, the newer generations are more concerned with building trust in the brand as a whole rather than the individual sales rep.
As Noam puts it: “It used to be the personal connection with the rep that would get you the deal regardless of the product, regardless of the brand. If you know how to butter people up with steak dinners, you would get the deal.
“Now, that’s not the case. Millennials don’t care about that stuff. We want to be aligned with a brand we believe in. It doesn’t have to be cool, but it has to be trustworthy. And that’s also about your content marketing, who you partner with, your leadership, and your messaging.”
Studies have found that 54 percent of today’s buyers look for pricing information in their initial research. If pricing isn’t transparent, 16 percent will cross that option off their list entirely.
According to Noam: “I think Millennials now understand that building technology in-house at some point will not scale. They prefer to buy a technology that will scale with the organization and has the right vision.”
And as a Millennial myself, I know I’ll pay for quality and trust 100% of the time, hands -down.
7 Recommendations for Adapting Your Sales Process to Millennials and Gen Z
As more Millennials and Gen Z gain buying power in the workplace, it’s time for companies to adapt how they sell to fit these new generations of purchasers.
1. Give Self-Serve Options
One key we’ve seen when it comes to selling to Millennials is speed. If you require a buyer to wait for an appointment to talk to a rep and spend 60 minutes on a sales pitch, you’re going to lose them.
In fact, that’s the idea behind Walnut.io’s campaign, #WeAreProspects.
Instead, give your buyers self-serve options throughout the sales process, such as:
- A free version of your product
- Free trial
- Self-service product demo (like this one)
- Transparent pricing
- Customer stories and reviews
While these are mainly marketing strategies, your sales team can help support these efforts by being at the ready when a buyer wants to talk to sales, or actively reaching out to leads who are taking advantage of these resources.
2. Lead With Your Product
“B2C understands that Millennials just don’t have the attention span for marketing and sales,” says Noam. “B2C ads are quick and funny. B2C buyers get free trials for gym memberships and apps or free returns from Amazon—you get to feel what you’re buying before committing.
“B2B is trailing behind here. The problem is that we’re still selling to Baby Boomers when our buyers are Millennials and soon-to-be Gen Z’ers. You tell them they have to schedule 60 to 90 minutes with a sales rep, do 20 minutes of introductions, etc… And you’ve lost them.”
Millennial consumers have no patience for traditional marketing. So why not create a B2B buying experience that mirrors the way they make purchases every day?
How can you do it? Lead with your product.
Here are two ways the team at Close is doing this (that you can swipe):
- Weaving discovery into your demo: Nobody likes signing up for a demo that turns out to be a discovery call in disguise. Instead of making your prospects wait for a walk-through of your product, lead with your product first. Let them see how it works. And through the process of the demo, weave in your key discovery questions. This will keep the conversation flowing naturally, and speeds up discovery.
- Offer a self-serve demo: At Close, we have a 10-minute product demonstration that anyone can watch for free, no questions asked. This works because new leads can see whether our product is right for them without waiting at all.
Plenty of B2C and eCommerce brands offer “Try before you buy” options. So why should B2B be any different?
3. Share Expertise and Add Value to the Prospect
Does this push for self-serve options from the Millennial generation mean that sales reps are becoming obsolete?
“If you’re a good sales rep, I can get a lot of value as a customer,” says Noam. “I recently spoke to a sales rep at PartnerStack who helped answer my questions, not just about the platform, but about the market of partnerships in general.
“I could’ve gotten some of that information reading blog posts. But a crisp conversation with a rep that shows interest in what you’re doing and is knowledgeable in the space as well as their technology—that’s something I appreciate.”
So how do you make this happen with your team?
If you’re a rep, dig deep into knowledge of the market in general. Be a content expert in your space, and give value to the prospects you talk with.
If you’re a sales manager, encourage your team to gain that market knowledge. Help them by setting up training sessions, or sending them to industry conferences where they can learn about the space.
4. Show Your Personality
“Before, being funny meant that you weren’t professional,” says Noam. “I think that’s changed.”
While B2C caught on to using humor a while ago, B2B has been slow to follow. Now, brands like Gong include humor in their marketing, and their company feels more relatable as a result.
Of course, maybe humor doesn’t come naturally to your brand. The important thing is to dig into your personality in both marketing and sales. Create a brand personality that resonates with your audience. Authenticity begets trust with a Millennial audience, and you need that to build brand loyalty.
5. Create a True Omnichannel Customer Experience
Millennials and Gen Z are smartphone users, social network natives, and video call experts. They’re used to using multiple channels to get the fastest response possible, whether they’re shopping at online retailers, looking for customer support, or trying to purchase software.
So, your sales team needs to be ready to provide support on any platform, at any time.
First off, you need a CRM that can gather these different conversations and put them into one neat timeline, like Close.
Second, you need to make sure you’re available and reaching out on the channels your Millennial customers need.
And while email and phone are still important, one survey shows that Millennials are looking for interactions with salespeople in:
- Social media (69 percent)
- SMS (52 percent)
- In-person meetings (47 percent)
- Video chats (45 percent)
When asked how they used social media platforms in the buying process, Millennials answered that they mainly used it to learn more about the topic in existing discussions and forums, as well as to ask for recommendations from others.
But, surprisingly enough, 38% responded that they used social media to connect directly with potential vendors or sales reps.
The point: your sales team needs to be active in these spaces where conversations are happening. Word-of-mouth on social media can be a powerful tool for referral sales.
6. Partner With Like-Minded Brands
Trust isn’t just about your brand or your employees. Trust can also be built (or torn down) by the partnerships your company has.
“Look at Apple,” explains Noam. “Apple products aren’t cheap. But people pay for Apple smartphones and other devices because they trust the way it all connects, they trust the ecosystem.
“If you trust the ecosystem, you’re going to pay extra just to be part of that ecosystem and feel that safe, controlled environment.
“A lot of things come down to partnerships. For example, if I’m going to buy a CRM that has a lot of integrations with related tools, I’ll feel like part of an ecosystem. I understand that the value is worth more than just the amount I’m paying for these vendors.”
By forming key partnerships and building native integrations with like-minded brands who work alongside what your platform offers, you can help create an ecosystem for your customers to thrive in.
This is another way to build trust and develop brand loyalty with your Millennial customers.
7. Use Customer Stories Freely
In one B2B buyer survey, buyers of different generations were asked which resources were most impactful in the buying process. Millennials and Gen Z were the most likely to cite user reviews as being most impactful.
And when asked what’s most important to them on review sites, Millennials answered that review content and relatable reviewers were the two keys.
How can you help Millennials and Gen Z build trust in your product through real user reviews?
First, work to get more reviews on third-party sites. Talk to your current successful customers and offer a discount or gift card for a review on a third-party site like G2. Make sure to pull customers that will be relatable to your target audience—for example, if you’re selling mainly to small businesses, make sure your current small business customers are included in this campaign.
Second, create relatable customer stories on your website. While quick testimonials are great, an in-depth customer story is a great way to showcase the success that businesses can get with your product or service. You might interview your customers and publish video testimonials, or write articles that focus attention on the story of your customers, not your product.
Get Ready to Sell to Millennials and Gen Z Buyers
This paradigm shift is happening faster than we may think. The majority of today’s buyers are Millennials, and tomorrow’s buyers are Gen Z. If you don’t spend time adapting to these new ways of purchasing B2B solutions, you’ll quickly be left behind.
So, it’s time to adapt. Learn more about how you can lead your sales org to success with our free resource, The Sales Success Kit: