3 B2B Negotiation tips for Millennials


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If you are in B2B sales and you’re a Millennial then the odds are you are selling to someone who is older. This is especially true if your product requires that you interact with the potential customer in person and also has a long sales cycle.

Having been on the receiving end of this process, I want to give you a personal list of  three things that can help or hurt you when you’re trying to get the “Close”.

  1. Patience

Make a point to establish a personal rapport and understand your customer as a person, not a LinkedIn profile, even if it takes more than one meeting. Unfortunately many of the Millennials I’ve met have been conditioned by their upbringing to expect immediate gratification. There is a subconscious urge to get from introduction to purchase order in one meeting.  Slow down!

Many years ago I read Harvey Mackay’s SWIM WITH THE SHARKS WITHOUT BEING EATEN ALIVE , his first book about the 66 things a salesperson must know about their prospect. It stressed both the importance of building a relationship and the real information needed to make that effort a success! This was way before CRM software and smart phones and I took it to heart. It has helped me to create profitable business relationships that have lasted more than two decades.

2. Value over Price

Selling B2B means that you are either competing against another seller or the customer is already using a product from your competitor.  I worked for a company that had Caterpillar® dealerships in several developing countries. Our main competitor was the Japanese-made Komatsu®. zn blog millennials komatsuWhile these two brands are traditional competitors, Caterpillar® always sold its equipment at a premium, even in countries where hard currency was difficult to find, because the value of its brand was worth more than the price of the machine. The bulldozer or front loader critical to a business’s survival came not only with better engineering but was accompanied by the best service and parts availability in the world.

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In my example the manufacturer over many years had built a brand that was iconic and backed it with a network of the world’s best dealerships. Customers knew that the product’s value was not what it could do when operating, but how quickly it could be fixed and running if something broke.

While you may not be selling Caterpillar® equipment, you are still selling a product against one or more competitors. Consequently it is your job to communicate the “real” value to the potential customer. In order to do that, you have to find out what your customer values in your product and the need it fills.

3. Language

While hanging out with your peers or on social media, you will subconsciously adopt certain phrases and expressions that might enter into your sales pitch. The problem is your buyer may not be familiar with the phrases or perceive them in a different context (one that may not be a positive one). For example, if I hear the phrases “Circle-back, Re-visit, or  in the wheelhouse”, the credibility of the sales person goes down. My suggestion is: Continue using professional terms and descriptions when making your pitch. Your buyer is not your peer. Using slang is a sign of disrespect or worse, you have not made the effort to successfully communicate with them. That does not mean that you should not be unique and memorable, but you want to be most remembered for your empathy in understanding what your buyer is really looking for and your ability to come up with a solution for them. But knowing what their hobby or favorite sports team is, does not hurt!

A final thought:

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