Move over Baby Boomers: The next generation — known as Millennials — is infiltrating distributorship sales teams as their predecessors reach retirement age. While some businesses have not yet begun to feel the effects of this changing workforce, sales consultants agree that the shift is significant — and a major cultural change is imminent.

“One of the most profound themes in sales is that the Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce,” says Jim Pancero, a sales management consultant and trainer based in Dallas. “The ripple effects of that are so overwhelming that most businesses have not realized it yet.”

Millennials cover the age range of 10 to 32 years. What separates Millennials from Baby Boomers, say the experts, is their philosophy and outlook, which has a major impact on their approach to selling.

“They are distinctly different,” says Kathryne Newton, consultant and professor of supply chain management technology at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana. “If you look at Baby Boomers, we were independent kids that played outside and walked to school. Millennials were not. They grew up in a much more structured, supervised environment. They’re used to being in groups and being watched over. They’re also digital natives, so that technology is almost an extension of themselves.”

For Millennials this focus on technology as their primary mode of communication is often at odds with Baby Boomers who relied on face-to-face contact to build relationships with their customers. Millennials turn to technology to connect with customers, but also to sell to them. They will rely on technology for shipping, follow-through and customer service, says Bob Wendover, director for the Center of Generational Studies, Littleton, Colorado.

“Older individuals approached their job as a social opportunity, but younger people look at it as a transaction,” he says. “So the older person is more likely to call and say, ‘I’m in your area, let me stop by for a few minutes and bring a cup of coffee.’ The Millennial is more likely to say, ‘Here’s the information, text or email me.’ They don’t feel the same need to develop a relationship with their customers as older individuals did.”

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Baby Boomers Were Independent, Millennials Are Social