It seems that the days of closing deals over a cigar in a smoky back room or out on the back nine are coming to a close. Now, deals are being discussed over email, video calls, and even via texts (btw: we need a deal-closing emoji like yesterday).
According to Forrester Research, millennials, who are now the largest share of the U.S. workforce, now also hold the most decision-making roles in corporate buying. Millennials have already changed the workforce permanently in two ways: by creating more open work cultures, and by using the internet to do most of their product research and purchasing.
So how are millennials changing sales? Well, cold calls now often become texts. And those texts aren’t so cold either. Many millennial buyers do a great deal of online research before ever contacting a company about buying their product. In fact, at least half of business-to-business directors recently surveyed by Forrester said they usually researched the supplier’s company and reviews from other clients before even arranging a meeting.
Dale Taormino, a veteran saleswoman, says the way she pitches buyers has changed a lot throughout her career. Instead of cold calling and wooing executives, now, she operates like “more of a quarterback,” coordinating large teams of people on both the seller’s and buyer’s sides.
“The profile of who’s going to be successful in sales and what kind of skill set or acumen they have has definitely changed,” Ms. Taormino, vice president of sales at Chicago-based Vistex Inc., told The Wall Street Journal.
The method for building a funnel of prospective clients has essentially reversed, she says. Both parties go into negotiations with much more information and research than they’d have before. Many prospects find Vistex and its software products through online research and only then do they contact Vistex. Marketing and sales work together at many companies to discover what prospective buyers are looking for. Therefore, when Vistex does contact buyers first, they too are armed with knowledge.
“The way these buyers want to buy is now creating pretty significant challenges for selling organizations,” Mary Shea, who leads sales-technology research at sales-software company Outreach.io., told The Wall Street Journal.
Stephen Pacinelli is chief marketing officer at video-messaging service BombBomb. As a Gen Xer, he too has seen the changes in the sales industry over the years. When he started his sales career selling software in 2000, he was showing up unannounced at company offices with baked goods in hand. Now, his company is hosting virtual events where peers across the industry can learn from one another and share experiences, rather than be pitched BombBomb’s products. “That openness is more unique to millennials,” Pacinelli told The Wall Street Journal. “You have to be the antithesis of a webinar.”