Gen Y wave approaching shores of b-to-b sales

Original Post: By Matthew Schwartz, Editor, Follow the Lead Blog

In the not-too-distant future, b-to-b sales reps may have to say goodbye to the telephone if they want to build relationships and drive lead-gen revenue. That’s one conclusion you can draw from recent research on how Gen Y (people born between those 1980 and the early 2000s) is starting to impact the b-to-b sales process.

The research (hat tip to, includes a survey of 300 managers, up to age 35, that was conducted last year by Chicago-based marketing agency Colman Brohan Davis and research firm E-RM. The results indicated a  ”propensity for social and interactive communications,” the agency reported.  Some of the media that Millennials say are most important in research in a business setting including talking with others (84%); employing search engines (84%); e-mail (83%) and browsing Web sites (79%).

Four traditional media channels achieved a reported usage penetration of more than 50%: talking with others, print, business directories and TV, the report said. “So, while the impact of the Internet is strong and widespread, traditional media cannot be eliminated from an integrated marketing strategy.”

Adam Needles, director of field marketing and b-to-b marketing evangelist at Silverpop, told Colman Brohan Davis:  ”Somewhere around age 30 to 35, you can draw a line in the sand between people who are used to calling around to get everything, and [it’s been] all about relationships and face-to-face.” But with Gen Y buyers and influencers, Needles added, “you have people whose expectation is that companies should put everything on their Web sites; they should be getting real-time feeds and information; and companies should be totally integrated into Twitter and the blogosphere.”

With two to three different generations involved in the typical b-to-b purchasing decision, Needles advises marketers to match their communications to each stage, and thus each group. For Gen Y audiences, during the research phase, it’s important to use digital tactics (Webinars, Twitter and blog posts) to attract prospects (who can then make suggestions to their managers on what to buy) while  Gen X audiences, or baby-boomer managers, require a combination of both digital and traditional methods of selling (RFPs, phone calls, in-person visits) to advance the conversation.

For now, gray beards still get the final call on where the budgets flow. But before long the folks in Gen Ys will move into more decision-making roles, with even more concrete change in the sales process to follow.