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Selling in the next generation

Lucas Deal October 10, 2013

For the sports fans out there — how many of you know the term “youth movement”?

Incredibly common in baseball and hockey and somewhat visible in other sports, a youth movement refers to a decision made by an organization to fill a roster with young players.

And while the term doesn’t transfer perfectly to business, it doesn’t take more than a cursory glance at any industry event to see trucking isn’t having one.

In fact, this industry is aging.

But just because a youth movement hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it never will. In fact, most trucking industry leaders view a transition to a younger industry as inevitable. No one can work forever.

At some point in the near future a substantial portion of this industry is going to retire. When it does, expect some long-time selling strategies to go with it.

Today’s generation of young employees has its own way of doing business, and whether you hire them in your business or encounter them as customers, these kids are going to expect you to evolve.

Your company’s future success will be directly associated to your willingness to do so, says Jim Pancero, professional sales consultant.

Speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network’s Aftermarket Distribution Summit last month in California, Pancero urged his audience to accept and adapt the selling tactics of a new generation.

“We aren’t just selling to our peers anymore. We’re starting to sell to an entirely different generation,” he says. “If we don’t change, we will become obsolete.”

Pancero describes today’s newest employable generation as trendsetters, and the first generation to grow up in the information age.

These people are used to having information at their fingertips, he says, and recognize if there’s information they don’t know about a product they can quickly find it online.

Product demos were a premier selling strategy once. Today’s purchasers have thousands of product demos at their fingertips on YouTube. Your 30-minute demonstration simply isn’t going to sell them, Pancero says.

He adds that relationship selling and consultative partnership selling also will take a hit as this new generation enters the industry.

While all customers, young or old, appreciate a personable and knowledgeable salesperson, today’s youth aren’t as independent as previous generations. They typically don’t make major decisions on their own, Pancero says, which means influencing one person is less likely to lead to a sale as it once did.

What you say matters too, he says.

Customers don’t want to hear you offer a top-quality product or service. They already assume you have that, he says. To make a sale, you have to show them your value.

And what today’s generation values most is consistency, he says.

From your product’s performance to your available literature and customer service, Pancero says this new generation demands the same message across the board.

Whether they are researching your product online —and Editor’s note, they absolutely want to research your product online —or talking to your sales staff or counter people, they expect the same answer to every question they have across each medium.

Undoubtedly price matters, but Pancero says today’s youth still maintain some characteristics with older generations in that they’re willing to pay a little extra for a top-shelf product.

But the product and support behind it must be consistent and reliable, he says.

“A strong brand equals strong predictability,” Pancero says.

So how do you motivate your veteran salespeople to handle this new purchasing generation? Or integrate a new, green salesperson into your team?

Pancero says you have to evolve.

He describes today’s veteran salesmen as lone gunfighters. They’ve always worked alone and done their own thing. No one ever told them what to do, he says, so they made things up on the fly.

Today’s young salespeople expect and demand best practices. They want to know exactly what to say and how to say it, Pancero says, and most importantly, they expect you to teach them.

“This next generation requires extra leadership demands,” he says. “For us, our sales manager was always for support and backup. He was the guy who put out fires.”

“[This new generation] views a sales manager as a coach and strategist.”

And just like young customers, Pancero says young salespeople also value group discussion and evaluation when making decisions. He says this allows them to improve best practices and create long-term strategies they can implement together.

So as your dealership evolves and integrates youth into its operation, be prepared to make changes, Pancero says. Consistency and guidance will lead to long-term success.

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