Ways Millennials Interact Presents Major Sales Challenges for Printers
"Missed call." These two words can create panic in the hearts of printing salespeople everywhere when they appear on a phone’s screen. And if the bosses find out, it will infuriate them, too. What were they doing that was more important than taking a call from a client or prospective customer? And, yet, there is a very good chance you are missing calls all day long and have no idea. Millennials are contacting you. Are you listening?
Ask a salesperson to describe their frustration when it comes to communicating with customers in 2018 and you will hear a common chorus of responses:
- “No one responds to my voicemails.”
- “People are just too busy these days.”
- “Everyone has their heads in their phones.”
- “Millennials are impossible to reach.”
… But what if that last one wasn’t entirely correct? What if millennials are communicating with you, but you don’t recognize it because they are not using standard, practiced and accepted methodology? And even if you are listening, perhaps you don’t recognize their “voice” and therefore don’t realize what is happening.
In fact, what if your attempts to reach them using the usual mediums (email, phone, etc.) won’t work, but they will contact you if you play your cards right? For more and to find out what you’re missing, let’s look at two worlds: Yours and theirs. First, you the salesperson.
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, there has been an agreement between the sales rep and the customer. We call, they answer. If they weren’t available, a real, live person took a message and calls were returned. Then came voicemail.
Originally, it was rare that a message went without a reply. Today, voicemail gives the salesperson the opportunity to audition his/her sales pitch and to demonstrate diligence. Courteous buyers would respond in kind. This was the agreement and everything was going smoothly. But, then, something happened that changed everything. Phones got portable, fancy and cellular technology took over.
Millennials are 20- and 30-somethings who were once kids that grew up looking at screens. Habits changed. Communication options increased. Talking on the phone became less interesting and they became selective about the phone calls they answered. Voicemail messages mean nothing and are often deleted immediately. Those lucky few salespeople who do have their calls returned, hear, “Saw that you called. What do you want?”
As these kids graduated from college and entered the workforce, communication through social media diminished interpersonal skills. That they are calling less is only a piece of the bigger picture. Millennials interact differently.
Email and texting furthered this next generation’s ability to avoid interaction in real time (what salespeople used to call, “talking to each other”). The result, however, is not the end of communication altogether, but rather a seismic shift.
To understand it better, let’s look at the outside-work life of the average millennial and how purchases are made. In other words, let’s talk Amazon for a second …
Millennials Value Ratings from Complete Strangers
A millennial needs to make a retail purchase. He opens an app, swishes his thumb this way and that, hits “One Click” and, voila, the product shows up in two days. If the item in question is something outside of his field of expertise, he relies on his honed research skills, as well as the input and feedback of complete strangers who are suddenly given immense power and seen as experts in refrigerators, hotels, restaurants or whatever the product being considered, before settling on a choice. No feedback, no purchase.
Anything less than five stars out of five and a leery eyebrow is raised. This is the life they have come to know. This is their standard. And these are the rules that you, printing industry salesperson, must play by if you wish to make contact.
Think about it. They are ready to buy now. They want information now. All of their investigation is done without a company knowing it and then, suddenly, they pop up to either make a purchase or ask a question. Either way, they expect a response — now.
Okay, let’s follow the millennial to work, put him/her in a position of purchasing authority and apply the lessons we’ve just learned. Their company is launching a new product at an upcoming trade show and our 20-something is asked to purchase some printing. Let’s say it’s a banner, booth wrap and other wide-format products. What does he do?
The millennial follows the same steps that he would if you were home: He opens Google and does a little research, punching in questions about materials and mistakes to avoid. Online, information on what he needs is everywhere. There are pictures and sizes and special offers. There are options, prices and testimonials.
Companies vie for the top spot in his search and use words designed to garner that ultimate prize — the click-through. But this buying decision is more complicated than socks or a t-shirt. This is not an off-the-shelf purchase and there is definitely more at stake.
If he screws up a personal purchase, he can always return it. This being a work responsibility, the millennial decides to buy local so that he can rely on the expertise of someone who’s done this before. As much as he hates to admit it, he needs to speak to someone.
So, back to Google he goes, this time searching for local banner suppliers. Up pops your company. If you are ready for him, your website is informative and inviting. It has testimonials and five-star ratings. It has pictures of ideas and examples. Your website screams sense and sensibility, capability and competency, expertise and experience.
And so, rather than picking up the phone like a normal person, he types in his name, contact information and requests that someone be in touch. The millennial has now done the unimaginable — he has contacted you.
And the clock has now started.
How long will it take for you to respond? Sure, you probably get dozens of inquiries a day and, yes, most of them are tire-kickers or bottom-feeders. The vast majority are not likely to be worth your time.
But like one California printer discovered while following up on a web inquiry, each one deserves your attention. Calling the client back with a question about the quote request, they were shocked to hear these words spoken by the receptionist, “Apple Computer. How may I direct your call?”
Could Become Your Next Big-Ticket Client
Incoming website-based requests need to be seen as urgent and important. People who are reaching out — whether they are millennials or not — have jumped several steps in the sales process and are now ready to buy. They want your attention. They need your expertise.
Millennials are communicating with you. On the other end of those SEO/SEM leads you get to so casually are 20- and 30-somethings who are otherwise ignoring your attempts to reach them.
When the Commissioner called Batman, did the caped crusader tell Robin to let it ring? Heck, no! Likewise, you must treat this “contact us” ping as if it is someone just dying to place an order with you.
The rules have changed. However, no one issued a new rule book. This new generation of clients lives in a “right now” world. They communicate on their terms, not yours. Are you listening? Keep doing what you are doing and you’ll have the same Bat-problems.
Understand that Commissioner Gordon’s son is now in office and he’s asking for help via your website, and you’ll have a reason to take the Batmobile on sales calls more frequently.
Related story: Defining Sales Success Factors in Today's Print Shops
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.