Cold Calling the Future: 5 Ways to Sell to a Millennial

By Travis Gnehm

With Millennials (like me) stepping into decision-making roles within the next 10 years, sales executives must adapt to how this new generation does business.  The most unique characteristic of Millennials is that they communicate more information via various mediums, and faster than ever before.

“Be authentic, passionate, and sincere about your business offering and the results that you can provide.” -- Travis Gnehm, sales executive for Xerox
“Be authentic, passionate, and sincere about your business offering and the results that you can provide.” — Travis Gnehm, sales executive for Xerox

Drawing on my own experience as a sales executive, here are five ways to sell to Millennial decision makers:

    1. Your approach defines your credibility to a Millennial.  Any true decision maker receives dozens of messages every week – many receive hundreds – that are seeking to win their business.  If you want to differentiate yourself from the other reps competing with you, be creative.  Do your research and send a well-crafted message with a call-to-action at the end.  This could be a message on social media to the decision maker, or an email that cites the research you have done on them and a follow-up date that you will call them.
    2. A Millennial will be highly skeptical of your ability to deliver on your offerings.  According to a survey published in March by the Pew Research Center, Millennials are considerably less likely to trust people than Generation X or Baby Boomers.  A Millennial will want references, case studies, demos, and numbers for return-on-investment; but most important, they will do their own research on your offerings.
    3. A Millennial may be climbing the corporate ladder.  In 2013, the Washington Examiner reported that approximately one-third of Millennials had a full-time job, yet almost two-thirds of them had gone to college.  Millennials have had major challenges in their careers due to the economic downturn in 2007 just as they started graduating college.  If a sales representative presents an offering to a Millennial decision maker that – for example – is able to cut annual energy costs for his organization by 20 percent, the opportunity for career advancement and professional success is a strong factor in the decision to go-ahead with the solution.
    4. Appeal to the technological value of your offer.  In December of 2012, a study from KRC Research revealed that 65 percent of Millennials consider losing their phone or computer to have a greater negative effect on their life than losing their car.  Technology is important to Millennials and they rely on it.  Technology helps them navigate their jobs and personal lives.  They also understand the potential of technology and – even more important – they understand and value what it can do.
    5. Be authentic.  In any client interaction, regardless of generation, you must convey your own sense of dedication and confidence with your product.  Be authentic, passionate, and sincere about your business offering and the results that you can provide.   It is the best context in which to deliver your value proposition.


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  1. Scott July 24, 2014 - Reply

    Especially the note about Millennials losing their phone, this is very helpful. I think this new generation is different than many had predicted and it’s worth it to understand. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Rich July 25, 2014 - Reply

    I really enjoyed this insightful article. Especially the reminder about the difficulties this generation has faced in getting their start in the world because of the economy. Your comments have increased the empathy and appreciation I already have for them.

  3. Robin Jackson July 26, 2014 - Reply

    As a so called baby boomer I am very very very wary of anything a millenial has to “offer”. Sorry you can’t reinvent the wherl.

    • Gregory Pings July 29, 2014 - Reply

      Robin, I recall what folks thought of us Boomers when we began to make our presence known to the world: “A bunch of dirty hippies.” Folks from our parents’ generation were positive that we would end civilization as they knew it. Maybe we did, but not in the way they feared. As I spoke with Travis about this article, I commented that us Boomers were once where he is now, in terms of status as well as yet-to-be-realized potential. I suspect, 25 years hence, Travis will say something similar to a smart, up-and-coming GenZ-er.
      And, so, the wheel turns yet again.

    • Joel July 31, 2014 - Reply

      EVERYONE has something to offer. The “wheel” has been reinvented a hundred times over. For example the language has not changed but every years new songs are created. (Reinventingthe wheel.)

      Taking the “very wary about what a millennial has to offer my be a short sided viewpoint that is not taking into account a large customer base.

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