Sales Executive Corner

Out With The Old And In With The New: Millennials Upend B2B Sales

By Matthew Flug, Evangelist at Outreach and Mary Shea, VP, Global Innovation Evangelist at Outreach

B2B buying preferences have changed

As the heads-down generation gains more power and influence in the workplace, the cohort is causing changes and challenges for B2B sellers. A recent B2B buyer survey conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Outreach, revealed that 93% of millennials make purchase decisions for their companies with their own (55%) or a shared (38%) budget.1 Relative to their Gen X and Boomer counterparts, millennials have very different buying preferences. Marketing and sales leaders must tune their strategies to resonate with this generation of buyers or risk losing deals to more dialed-in competitors.

Prior to the global pandemic, B2B buying and selling sales motions were already in flux. According to a 2020 Forrester report, as early as 2017, one in five buyers said they preferred to meet with a seller remotely rather than in person.2 This trend accelerated during the pandemic and will likely gain more traction as companies cut back on travel in anticipation of a global economic downturn. The Forrester Consulting study found that all generations of buyers prefer virtual meetings and phone calls over in-person meetings.3

The shift to digital has dramatically changed the buyer journey and requires marketing and sales teams to be more interconnected than ever. Before accepting sales meetings, today’s buyers typically go to a supplier’s website, interact with digital content, attend webinars, and much more.4 Sellers must be keenly aware of where the buyer is in their journey and then use the digital trails left behind to engage with insights and intelligence. As a likely result of consensus-building decision-making preferences, a more distributed workforce, and the tightening of financial belts, the study revealed that buying cycles are longer, buying committees have increased in size and finance and procurement executives are more involved in decision-making.5

Millennials have more influence

Millennials are now the predominant decision-makers while Gen X buyers control larger budgets. Each cohort values different experiences from their reps when making buying decisions.6 Millennials want a tech-savvy rep with good problem-solving skills and a consultative approach while Gen Xrs want to explore on their own and value industry knowledge and experience from their rep.7 One noticeable difference between the two cohorts is how much they value a company’s diversity and values. While 85% of millennials agreed, that “sales teams need to be diverse and reflect the world around me,” only 65% of Gen Xrs agreed.8 Additionally, 75% of millennials said they would re-consider purchasing a product if the company’s values did not match their own, compared with 68% of Gen X respondents.9

With the proliferation of information most buyers, regardless of their generation, are independent, impatient, and empowered. According to Forrester’s 2021 B2B Buying Survey 55% of buyer interactions within a deal cycle are self-guided.10 As the time sellers have to influence a sale contracts, sellers must be technology-enabled and capable of maximizing every interaction. In the Forrester Consulting study, buyers overwhelmingly stated that they preferred sellers to answer complex questions in the moment rather than follow up with the answer or schedule another meeting with an expert.11 As one sales leader told Forrester in a 2021 report, “A pretty good answer right now, is better than a perfect answer a week later”.12

Revenue leaders must tune their GTM strategies

There is no question we are on the cusp of a new era in B2B sales. Revenue leaders must tune their GTM strategies to resonate with millennial and Gen X buyers. Organizations that are unable to do so will get outsold by more proactive competitors. To deliver the smooth, connected experiences modern buyers demand, marketing and sales personnel must work in concert. They must operate from a single and accurate customer data set and every member of the GTM organization must have complete visibility into all customer and prospect interactions.

Read the full Forrester Consulting commissioned by Outreach, “Generational Shifts Fundamentally Change B2B Buyer and Seller Dynamics” to understand what it will take to succeed in this new era of B2B sales and to learn more about the experiences and seller traits they value most.

Generational Shifts Fundamentally Change B2B Buyer and Seller Dynamics

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References

1Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Outreach, April 2022. Base: 212 B2B directors + that influence purchasing decisions across North America and UK organizations in various industries.

2Source: Forrester report “Future Onsite Meetings Will Come At A Premium”. July 2020.

3Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Outreach, April 2022. Base: 212 B2B directors + that influence purchasing decisions across North America and UK organizations in various industries.

4Ibid.

5Ibid.

6Ibid.

7Ibid.

8Ibid.

9Ibid.

10Source: Forrester report “Leverage Visibility Into Sales Interactions To Generate Sales Insights”. May 2021.

11Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Outreach, April 2022. Base: 212 B2B directors + that influence purchasing decisions across North America and UK organizations in various industries.

12Source: Forrester report “Talent Alone Is No Longer Enough: The Insights-Driven Sales System”.