In 2014, Google reported that 46 percent of potential buyers researching B2B products were Millennials, up from 27 percent in 2012. Today, 73 percent of Millennial workers are involved in decisions to purchase products or services for their companies or their own business, and 34 percent are the sole decision-maker regarding purchases.
As more and more Millennials begin controlling big budgets, it becomes increasingly critical for seasoned sellers to understand and connect with the Millennial B2B buyer.
Benefits of Selling to Millennial B2B Buyers
- Loyalty Limbo. Whether they are new to the buying role or looking to reevaluate any long-standing relationships or traditional processes, the window to win Millennial loyalty is open.
- Vast Value. Because Millennials are young in their careers, they inevitably carry a high lifetime value. Nurture the relationship to turn their inevitable job hop into new opportunities.
- Peer Persuaded. Millennials will turn to their robust social networks to crowd-source decisions as well as recommend and refer business. Deliver exceptional value and social sharing shall be your reward.
Here are eight keys to positioning a product or service with the Millennial B2B buyer.
1. Know Millennials
Fifty-two percent of workers say they're least likely to get along with someone from another generation.
Millennials communicate, shop, decision make, and buy differently than previous generations. A firm understanding of the behavior and values of Millennials is the first step in establishing common ground with a next generation buyer.
Survey your current Millennial buyers--not by calling but with a mobile friendly survey--and ask: How do you search for products/services?, How do you prefer to communicate?, What associations or social networks do you belong to?, What would make our company more appealing to you?, etc.
Based on the survey data, create a detailed Millennial buyer persona, a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, that highlights demographics, motivations, what blogs they read, devices they use, podcasts or audio books they listen to, how they shop online, prefer to communicate with vendors, etc.
2. Defer Your Communication
Millennials spend more than 3.5 times overall usage time in messaging apps than those over 45 years old, with older users defaulting to apps that replicate desktop functions, like email and web browsers.
Evolving technologies have created a tangled web of varying communication preferences. The clashing of communication channels is at an all-time high in the workplace. Some folks want face-to-face, others want a phone call, an email, a text, or message via the latest chat service. One thing is for certain, never leave a voicemail for a Millennial.
How sellers want to communicate is less important than how buyers want to communicate. Sellers should defer to the buyer's communication preferences. For Millennial buyers, that may be text, Slack, Skype, or some other innovative communication platform. Adjusting in real-time to various communication channels is the new norm when selling to Millennials.
3. Attract vs Prospect
Millennial B2B buyers cited Internet search and vendors' websites as their two top means of researching products and services.
Historically the sales process has been very linear--qualifying, educating, creating interest/need, and closing-- but the Millennial B2B buyer prefers a different process. The Millennial B2B buyer will gather information up front by consuming information via social networks, videos, blogs, etc. As a result, sellers have to do much more work attracting vs prospecting.
What's the best way to attract the Millennial B2B buyer? Deliver valuable, compelling content where they are searching for that information. Uncover (via a survey) what topics or questions they are searching for online and create content that fills the need of the potential buyer. High-value content will also position you as an expert/authority that can be trusted.
Ensure your content is plentiful and as digitally native as Millennials are so that the Millennial B2B buyer can easily beat a digital path to your front door.
4. Active Web Presence
Sixty-two percent of Millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.
Millennials grew up on the web searching forums, reading blogs, evaluating Yelp reviews, Googling everything, and tweeting at brands as if they were a personal friend. Millennials buying behavior is different from previous generations because of their high-social and hyper-connected upbringing.
Millennials will make decisions about you or your product based on your digital presence or the lack there of. Unlike previous generations, a face-to-face meeting is not needed to build trust and will only support the relationship or impression that they've already established online. Millennials place a higher value on virtual.
Social media impacts industries differently. However, a vibrant social media presence will only elevate your brand in the eye of a Millennial buyer. Make it easy for the Millennial B2B buyer to discover your products and services and to begin a conversation.
5. Provide Proof
Eighty-four percent of Millennials report that user-generated content on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy.
Once attracted, how do you move the Millennial B2B buyer along in the buying process? Provide proof. For a generation that has been bombarded with ads their whole life, straight-forward and honest proof is what demonstrates the most trust with Millennials.
Create a compelling story with real images of real customers getting real results. Use testimonials, case studies, white papers, infographics, before and after photos, and success stories. Leverage video when possible as video is Millennials preferred content format when researching a new business product and service.
Millennials are massively persuaded by peers and will lean into their massive online networks to gather peer reviews, recommendations, and referrals. Ask your current Millennial buyers to create proof-packed content. Seventy percent of Millennials feel a responsibility to share feedback with companies after a good or bad experience. Nurture Millennial influencers to provide proof and help promote your products and company story.
6. Routine Buyer Adaptation
Buyers are now as much as 57 percent of the way through the buying process before actually engaging with a seller.
The information age has shifted more power to the Millennial B2B buyer. In the past sellers had to find a buyer and convince them they needed to buy. Today sellers are interacting with educated buyers and must adapt to where the buyers are in the decision. Sellers have to be able to qualify a lead when the lead comes to them with a lot of existing knowledge.
Sellers should listen to understand what the buyer already knows, ask questions to uncover what the buyer needs to know, and then demonstrate value for the buyer's need. Covering redundant info that is clearly displayed online will frustrate the Millennial B2B buyer.
7. Paint the Big Picture
Millennials desire simplicity, authenticity, and social responsibility in the goods and services they buy at a personal consumer level. This buying lens is likely to be carried into the B2B buying role. Companies serious about corporate social responsibility will earn Millennial business.
Help the socially-minded Millennial B2B buyer to see the big picture behind the product. For example, Warby Parker stresses that they are the "only carbon-neutral eyewear brand in the world" which aligns with one of the company ground rules, "Green is good."
Paint the bigger picture behind your product and be rewarded with a Millennial purchase.
8. Swift Mobile Communications
Eighty-two percent of Millennial B2B buyers said mobile devices were important when researching new products and services.
On-demand info gathering and mobility throughout the sales cycle is a Millennial expectation. Millennials grew up in a response-rich, mobile environment and now expect prompt responses and mobile friendly communications at every crossroad.
Sellers must rethink their sales copy and all communications through the lens of mobile in order to connect with the Millennial B2B buyer.