Cross-Generational Selling

Are we getting older or are print buyers getting younger? It can’t just be us, can it? Roughly 15 years ago, I remember when a PIA of Georgia staffer told me the buyer at Coke had been replaced by a 23-year-old girl. (Sorry. Woman! Big diff!)

Yesterday, I was talking to a print sales rep who told me a client’s response to his sales pitch was, “Word!” Not surprisingly, he had no idea what that meant (if you don’t either, use the Urban Dictionary and find out). Poor guy. He didn’t know whether to open up a new order or Microsoft Office.

Things are really getting annoying when we don’t understand what others using our native language are saying to us. It’s hard enough to get them on the phone. Now we have to have a translator as well?

True story: While playing golf in Florida in 2007, one of the 20-somethings I had been paired with asked me if I burn. Naturally, I told him I had on SPF 45 and felt well protected. Fifteen minutes later when he and his peeps stopped laughing, they told me what they meant and whipped out a doobie to give me a physical point of reference. THAT, I understood.

In 2001, I officially became “Sir.” That’s fine. Last October I hit 50 and while my ego took a hit, nothing important fell off so I took it in stride. I just have a hard time selling to someone who, like, um, like, you know, like thinks PMS is something you ride out and not match up to.

This is a problem that is not going away. Companies, in their infinite struggle to save money, are hiring college graduates and sticking them in positions where not only do they have to come into contact with the public, but vendors as well.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • http://Iaintold I aint old

    Learn how to text message and tweet with your customers.

  • http://Steve Steve

    I must say, this article has me quite distraught. As a twenty-something in the printing industry in a managerial position, it’s disheartening to have an entire generation degraded by your own inability to gather the vernacular of the day. I figured that aspect would be a prerequisite of sales.

    I have several coworkers who are behind the times and cannot use a computer. I don’t bash the “greatest generation” because a few lackies have no interest in updating themselves. I feel that the introduction of new employees out of college lends a fresh and intelligent perspective to the working world and the fact that many are threatened by the change only reinforces the need for an update.

    In short, I found your article derrogatory and unneccesary. And “word!” is already quite antiquated.

  • http://JohnAhearn John Ahearn

    Loved this column Bill!
    WORD! (that translates literally to “Well done and very funny too!”

  • http://PattyTraynor Patty Traynor

    I enjoyed this post, Bill. Commenter Steve proved the point that there IS a generation gap in communication. He took offense to what I see as a light hearted reminder to keep up with the times. The different perspective is, of course, that I am much closer to your age than his. (Shhhh) Rather than the topic being unnecessary as he contends, Steve has provided great support for the need for discussion on the matter.

    Sometimes people take offense when none is given. I don’t care if you call me a girl, but some women do. (There are some 2,000 members of the Girls Who Print LinkedIn group who probably aren’t offended either.) Styles of communication can vary by age, gender, locale, industry, or other factors. The challenge in sales, I believe, is to know your audience and be able to speak in a manner that they will positively respond to – somewhere between being laughed at and having them feel offended.

    About 5 years ago, a vice president of a local bank referred to me twice as “U” in a follow up letter after a meeting with me. He was trying to gain my company’s business and 401(k) account. I was just floored. But it is a reality that language continues to change with each generation & we all have to get used to it. Dost thou think otherwise?

  • http://JimT Jim T

    Steve said – “your own inability to gather the vernacular of the day. I figured that aspect would be a prerequisite of sales.”

    I find it amusing that Bill is being admonished for his “inability to gather the vernacular of the day,” but Steve does not critique Mr. “Word” for not gathering the vernacular of the real business world. There’s a difference between slang-filled conversations carried on in social settings, and business related conversations in a professional setting.

    I don’t think Bill was bashing an “entire generation” in his post. I actually picked up on some self-deprecating humor.

  • http://Brian Brian

    WORD Bill, LOL (we all know what “lol” means right? :) ).
    I actually enjoy working with the younger print buyers of today. They tend to be a bit more “tech savvy,” and usually understand that they shouldn’t send me a direct mailing piece set up in a WORD document. They also, in my opinion, tend to be more creative and out of the box thinkers when it comes to their companies print marketing.

  • http://CheriAllbritton Cheri Allbritton

    I don’t bash the “greatest generation” because a few lackies have no interest in updating themselves. Whoa! Bill, you certainly don’t look old enough to have fought in World War II! I did a little research and wrote a non-business blog myself about the different generations and the method of communication between each because I have found that different generations prefer to receive information or answers to their questions via the preferred tool(s) of their generation.

    I have met and sold to at least two generations of printers in my business and am beginning to meet the third (on go to work with Mommy and/or Daddy days) and find each not only communicate with our business differently but also find different things more important to their business. So Steve, give Bill a break. He’s not dogging you, he’s merely pointing out some subtle or maybe not so subtle things that we (meaning both you and I) should be aware of, and has delivered it in a manner most everyone can agree on, with some lighthearted humor.