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Gen X is Entering the C-Suite: What It Means for Salespeople

GenerationX-Entering-C-Suite

As Baby Boomers are retiring, Gen Xers (those born from about 1965 to 1980), now with several solid years of experience, are moving into decision-making positions. A few days ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how this shift is affecting the culture of companies and how they’re run. The article explained a few shared characteristics of these younger bosses. 

  1. As members of the first generation to use personal computers from childhood, they are generally more tech savvy.

  2. They spend more time recruiting and keeping younger staffers.

  3. They worry about how to keep products and services relevant for the rising millennials projected to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.

  4. They generally take more risks and react faster to sudden business shifts than the CEOs they replaced. 

What do these changes mean for salespeople who now find themselves with Gen Xers as their prospects? Here’s how I see we can apply this knowledge to sales.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk tech. Digital was a tough sell for a lot of Baby Boomers. Generally, they were late adopters of smartphones, social media, and other technology. They had to be educated on why their companies needed to be in the social conversation, why their websites needed to be mobile-friendly, why they needed to integrate digital into their advertising campaigns. But Generation X gets it. Tech has been a part of their lives for decades, and they’re readers of the latest industry blogs and online publications. So they won’t need as much education on why tech and digital are important parts of their strategies.

  • Sell the benefits to their staff. Baby Boomers were loyal to the company. They often worked for only two or three companies their entire careers. There wasn’t a lot of turnover, and not much attention had to be given to recruiting and retaining talent. But that’s changed, in a big way. Millennials are more interested in career exploration than climbing the corporate ladder. They want to work on projects they care about, with people they can learn from, in companies who have a culture they believe in. Gen Xers understand this, and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to provide an experience that will keep top talent engaged. If your product or service will benefit internal staff as well as a company’s clients, sell Gen Xers on that.

  • Sell innovation. If you’re thinking ahead, looking for trends in your industry, and are able to see how new technology applies to your prospects, those prospects will listen to what you have to say. They care about being relevant to the younger generations, and they’re actively looking for ways to be on the cutting edge.

  • You can move quickly. When selling to Baby Boomers, you generally have to have a lot of patience. They usually aren’t quick to make decisions, and they often have complex processes to go through before they do. Gen Xers are more willing to take risks in order to be one of the first to take advantage of a new tool or solution. They do their homework, but they aren’t afraid to jump in.

Every person is unique and there are always exceptions, but generational tendencies serve as a helpful starting point for understanding markets and prospects. The more you understand your prospects, the better you’ll be at selling to them.

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Topics: Sales, lauramacpherson