Millennials now frequently contribute to corporate technology purchasing decisions and they are changing how decisions are made. As millennials move into leadership positions, it is important to understand how they make decisions and adjust sales processes accordingly. While product capability and solution fit are important to millennials, they also prioritize buying from professionals and companies they trust. Building strong relationships with millennial buyers involves exhibiting transparency and demonstrating corporate social responsibility. Some key drivers to create trust, based on our Win/Loss reviews, are below:
Millennial buyers want lasting relationships with vendors and not simple transactions. This is especially true with corporate technology solutions that require customization and have complex implementation requirements. Millennials desire a single point of contact throughout the entire technology sales process from start to finish, including needs discovery, purchase negotiations, implementation, and long-term account management. However, many technology companies assign a different specialist employee for each stage. The parade of specialists makes it difficult for buyers and vendors to form relationships, and rapport weakens while information is lost at each hand-off. One consistent point of contact throughout the contract life facilitates relationships that feel more like partnerships than transactions. This ensures that information is pervasive throughout the process.
Surprises are only welcome when they are good, and that is as true for Millennials as it is for any other cohort. Millennials want to trust their vendors, which requires honesty about product features and an open relationship. In the purchase process, if a product is missing a key functionality, millennials want to know immediately and not after the contract is signed. Transparency is linked with trustworthiness; when there are issues, demonstrating an understanding of the buyer’s needs and offering workarounds or third-party integrations helps build trust. To avoid surprises, salespeople need to proactively communicate information to buyers and build trust. During implementation, sellers should be upfront about the deployment timelines and solution costs. Millennial buyers will trust sellers who deliver on longer timelines versus sellers that miss deadlines.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Buyers consider multiple factors when making corporate technology purchasing decisions and not all variables are related to the product. Millennials want to trust the companies they buy from as much as they want to trust the sales people. In the technology space, where functionality is often less of a differentiator, technology vendors should foster positive corporate images through deeds and actions. Commitment to corporate social responsibility resonates well with millennials and helps companies demonstrate trustworthiness while building strong relationships with their buyers. Microsoft is an example of a socially responsible technology company with its YouthSpark Program, which gives young people the opportunity to learn computer science. Programs like YouthSpark position companies as community supporters and the positive PR can help with differentiation. Making a conscious effort to operate ethically is another way a vendor can stand out and build trust.
Millennials have already surpassed Gen X in terms of their presence in the US workforce, and their movement into influential decision-making roles is inevitable. Knowing what matters to millennials and understanding how to effectively sell to this cohort will become more important over time. Gaining a millennial buyer’s trust helps with the initial sale, and increases the likelihood that buyers will repeat and make positive referrals to their peers and network. As a group, millennials are social, information-sharing professionals who are looking for companies that provide more than just “the latest technology.” Functionality will always be important, but millennials also want trusting relationships, which is something that can’t be programmed.
Authors: Sarah Mantz, Research Analyst, Technology Practice & Kyle, Senior Research Analyst, Technology Practice