How to Sell to Millennials

We’re not so different, you and I...except, like, I’ve never functioned without a smartphone…      

Millennial Consumer wooden tiles- On how to sell to millennials

Millennials are a confusing bunch of people and learning how to sell to millennials can be even more confusing. Understanding their likes and dislikes, what they do and don’t buy, how they make business decisions, or life decisions in general, can be really hard. Like, harder than coming up with some witty comparison about how difficult millennials are to deal with without falling into any cheap overused clichés like “harder than trying to catch smoke with your bare hands”. How do I know this you may ask?

I am one…*gasp*

While it can be tempting to write us off as “entitled”, “selfish”, “lazy”, “narcissistic”, “spoiled”, “insert your own negative descriptor here”, this generation, now entering adulthood and (mostly) moving out of their parents’ houses, is bound to become the largest consumer group by 2020–and by some accounts it already is.  Yes, we may annoyingly take “selfies” on a daily basis, talk about ourselves constantly through social media, blogs, vlogs, YouTube channels and Snapchat, and seem incapable of surviving more than 3 minutes without our phones, but I promise there is more to us than what meets the eye...and what doesn’t meet the eye is important for learning how to sell to millennials.

Millennials taking Selfie

Born into a rapidly changing, technology-driven, ever-increasingly connected world, our purchasing patterns differ in substantial ways from those of generations before us. And as terrifying as it may sound, understanding the millennial consumer is unavoidable if you’d like to keep your business growing and competitive in this new age. Below is a guideline for how to sell to millennials. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful in approaching the scary, unreachable generation and maybe, just maybe, it will change the way you think of us (although I’d like to emphasize the maybe there, I can’t make any promises).

Who are we???

Millennials (also known as Generation Y–yes we get two names, I guess we may be slightly spoiled after all–) are people who were born between the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s. While we’re still human, and therefore not all that different from those in generations past, there are key ways in which we differ that do make us distinct from other consumer groups. The demographics data included below will shed some much needed light on who millennials are and in turn help you learn how to sell to millennials and grow your client base.

We come out in numbers...

According to a 2015 Census Bureau Report, Millennials number 83.1 million strong and account for a quarter of the US population. This substantially outnumbers the the estimated Baby Boomer population of 74.5 million, and points to a new Millennial Market that will need to be catered to.

Diversity in Millennials

We are diverse...

Diversity defines us–44.2 % of millennials identify as being part of a minority or ethnic group (aka non-single race, white). The multicultural millennial face is key in understanding the various backgrounds, cultures, and experiences we have, which of course affect how and what we consume.

We is smart…

Among millennial women, 27% have a bachelor’s degree and among millennial men, 21% have a bachelor’s degree. These numbers are bound to increase as the rest of us forge through higher education now, which puts us on track to be the most educated generation. Unfortunately, our educated status comes at a high price. From 1995 to 2015 the average price of getting a bachelor’s degree as an in-state student at a public university increased 296%, leaving many millennials saddled with expensive student debt. This is no unimportant fact in realizing how to sell to millennials, as our purse strings may be a bit tighter (except when it comes to coffee) than our parents' generation. 

Hablamos más de una lengua…

An estimated 38% of us are bilingual–this is up from 22% in 2003. Highly correlated with our diverse faces, an ever-connected world, and our expressed desire to learn about other cultures and peoples, we’re all about communication and can do it in many tongues. Our love of communicating (whether it be through our phones or a rare face-to-face interaction) is no trivial fact, it’s highly indicative of what we expect in business dealings and is key to understanding how to sell to millennials.

We aren’t married...yet

Only 21% of millennials are married (about half the amount of Baby Boomers at our age). Shifting social norms and expectations, longer time spent in school, and wanting to gain financial stability and independence all help contribute to these changing trends. But before you cry “noncommittal rapscallion”, most millennials (~70%) do say that marriage and a family is on their horizon and a major life goal...which will prove to be important in predicting near future consumer patterns.

Three Millennial girls celebrating after graduationOk, ok, so now that you know we are a diverse, multilingual, educated, unmarried, large consumer base you will now be able to recognize these mysterious millennials when you see them, but you may be asking yourself, “how does this help me sell to them specifically? Who is the millennial as a consumer?? What tactics do they respond to??? DO THEY EVEN BUY ANYTHING EXCEPT FOR OVERPRICED COFFEE?????

Before you get yourself worked up with the millions of daunting questions I’m sure you have right now, take a deep breathe, don’t look at the clock (as not to remind yourself of all the time you’ve spent reading this blog post with its never-ending sentences) and keep on reading on. Over the last several years many companies and marketing firms have made big efforts to understand these up and coming money-spenders and have done some pretty intensive and impressive research. Here is a compilation of data about the Millennial Consumer that will ultimately help you learn how to sell to millennials more effectively and efficiently. Knowing that you are a savvy and successful sales and business person, I know you will be able to take these key facts and effectively apply them to your business model to make the most biggest of bucks.

Do you even consume bro???

Tech is our middle name…

A lady taking pic of another lady

Well, duhhhh, you say to yourself. And yes, well, duh. Having grown up in a climate where having a smartphone and a laptop are almost a necessity, technology is an essential part of targeting the millennial consumer.

According to AdWeek, the average millennial consumer checks their phone 43 times a day–and 30% of us use four or more devices on a daily basis! (I dare you to name all four devices–I couldn’t…)

The good: your marketing and sales platform has already been built for you! Putting in a little time and effort on the front-end to increase your online presence (i.e. modernizing your website, creating digital ads, blogging, etc.) will greatly improve your outreach and will ultimately lead to more Google-searches, more Google-hits and more sales.

The bad: to keep up with the changing times, you too will have to sell your soul to technology, becoming virtually inseparable from your smartphone.

The ugly: you may experience misshapen thumbs from copious amounts of texting.

Just kidding

We don’t really trust you…

Millennial couple

Millennials have been bombarded with advertisements since birth–ask any one of us to “name the jingle” and we could do it in a heartbeat (in fact, most of us could give you the entire phone number for Empire Today in full in its sing-songy form). Unfortunately, this makes us pretty unfazed when it comes to traditional advertisements, with just 1% of millennials saying compelling advertising would affect their perceptions of a brand, product, or company.

Luckily there are things that millennials do respond to that you can capitalize on in your sales and marketing approach...

1) word of mouth recommendations –93% say they bought a product after hearing about it from a family member or friend


2) blogs and online reviews–33% rely on blogs before making a purchase, while 93% read online reviews before buying a product.

Encourage your current customers to write online reviews of you and your product and continuously work towards providing the best service to your current clients and treating your employees well. Your respectable, kind-hearted business dealings will create good word of mouth and get get you good reviews on review sites, Glassdoor and blogs, which millennials rely heavily on to learn about your company culture and values.

Your values and sincerity matter…

Two lady figuring out How to sell to Millennials

Remember that Great Recession thing that happened not so long ago? You remember...that thing where GDP fell 4.3 percent, unemployment reached a 25 year high of 10%, home prices fell 30% and 3 million homes were foreclosed on? Yeah, thaaatt one. Many of us graduated into this tumultuous economic period, and many of us have largely blamed this recession on corporate greed and profit-seeking. When thinking of how to sell to millennials and forge real connections with us, understanding our experience with the Great Recession is key.

Although millennials struggle to pay off student loans and find affordable housing in increasingly expensive cities (have you ever looked at rent prices in San Francisco?!?), they are not the consumers that consistently buy the cheapest products on the market. A Nielson Global Study shows that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for a product if they think it (or the company) is socially responsible.

Completely counterintuitive to trying to claw one’s way out of debt, millennials place severe importance on a salesperson’s (and company’s) mission statement, community involvement and values. You can work to create sincere relationships with the millennials you’ve connected with, emphasizing the ways you give back to the community or how your product/service/company is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While tailoring your image to align with millennial values may take some time and resources upfront, once you’ve branded yourself as a socially-conscious member of society you will ultimately be able to charge slightly higher prices, sell more, increase your revenue AND feel good about your impact on the world around you!

You read this far??...Thank you!

Thank you written on garage shutter

Hopefully you’ve found these statistics useful in defining the Generation with Two Names. As a salesperson, your job and success relies heavily on being able to connect and communicate with the major consumer base of the time–and a new consumer base (especially one that seems so disconnected from reality) can be really difficult to understand.

To recap what you’ve learned today:

MILLENNIALS AREN’T THAT BAD–but we do require a slight tweaking of your sales and business approach when it comes to learning how to sell to millennials…

We are diverse, we are socially-minded and we often have our faces in our phones, and luckily for you, my savvy sales friend, knowing this information will directly help you learn how to sell to millennials, grow your business and just may teach you some new slang along the way.

Ok, now that you know how to sell to millennials, check out our other sales-related blog posts and become the most kick-a** salesperson out there!

Now, check "learn how to sell to millennials" off your list, stretch out a bit and get back to work!

Oh, and one last thing...remember that “dank” is good, “whack” is bad, and if something is “lit” or “fire”, you’ve sold your brand well.

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