Millennials are already on the radar of many firms looking to not only boost sales in the short term, but create customers for life. But selling to millennials is not simple. In the West at least, it’s the first generation that’s grown up in the Internet era. As one insightful “selling-to-Millennials” article in the Huffington Post this week put it:

In the case of Millennials, no other generation has greater access to a wealth of information, and none other in history is better informed. Information is power and in our hyper-connected online world, Millennials are actively flexing their muscles. The outcome of having such power is the creation of an unspoken, but very present, “Millennial Mandate.”

The Reality of Millennials. Richer and More Informed (but Not the Way You Think)

We ought not to overstate this change; when it comes to history, geography and literature, the next leaders of the free world seem even less informed than their predecessors (eg. “In 1980, the fact that Paris is the capital of France was ranked 6th in terms of questions answered correctly. By 2012, this fact had dropped to 23rd place among questions answered correctly.”). As well, out-of-control student debt and stagnant wages are putting the brakes on wealth accumulation for plenty of young folks in this category – which could have consequences for decades to come.

That said, it may just be that Millennials are devoting more of their brain power to other categories of knowledge; more kids today are comfortable with not just using technology, but working with it (eg. creating web pages, editing photographs, or booking their business travel itineraries themselves in minutes). As for all that student debt of recent graduates, even those folks are still buying plenty of expensive gadgets and consumer goods – just so long as the credit card companies do their part. So long as creditors keep footing the bill, sales to the short-straw Millennials are still a very viable option.

How to Sell to Millennials by Integrating Sales and Marketing

“Selling isn’t telling”. That’s what I often tell my sales and marketing integration consulting clients – and it’s especially true when it comes to selling to Millennials.

In most cases, it’s going to take more than a good advertisement to get them to buy something, particularly big-ticket items. Before they buy, they’re going to check blogs and review sites like Yelp to get the ‘real story’ about a product. They’ll pay attention to mentions in mainstream media, too – but when it comes to trusting a paid reviewer over an actual customer, they’re going to go for the latter. And when they are ready to buy, they want maximum convenience.

The sales strategy for selling to millenials

Omni-Channel. Just about every company these days has a website – but is yours optimized so a customer can instantly buy from you, hassle-free? Millennials are big browsers on smartphones and buyers on tablets and laptops. Make sure you’ve developed that infrastructure so they’re a click away from a purchase on any platform.

Cut the Hard Sell. Inform, Instead. One-click buttons on landing pages to get your customers’ hard-earned dollars are good, but what’s happening with the rest of the content on the page? Telling the customer to buy in eight different ways isn’t very efficient; helping them understand how your product is used, upgraded, adapted or combined with other products to create an even better experience is key. Be helpful and informative.

Recognize Your Champions (and Reward Them). If today’s Millennial consumer trusts their third-party blogger more than you, then you need to build relationships with the evangelists for your company. Where possible, give those champions a reward for their positive reviews (eg. “We loved your glowing review of Product X – and we’d love to get your feedback on Product Y, which we’re sending to you in the post). Where it might be unseemly to directly reward an evangelist for fear of contaminating their objectivity, it’s still fine to at least recognize them with a link or mention from your own sites (eg. “See what John Smith of Akron, Ohio had to say about our new roto-tiller”).

A lot of the tactics for Millennials can apply generally across your customer markets. The population as a whole is becoming more sophisticated when it comes to buying decisions – up your game and your company can build a legacy for the coming millennium.

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