Laurie Holt, Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith, LLC
Millennials are a hot topic in all areas of business. Why? Because right now, there are about 82 million millennials in the United States. With baby boomers nearing retirement in the next 10-15 years, the window of opportunity for millennials to step into leadership roles is wide open.
So, who makes up this group of millennials? This generation is comprised of individuals born between 1980 and 2000, which means the oldest millennial is 36 and probably on their way to the C-suite, if they are not already there. If you are not already selling to these individuals, you will be. To be successful, you must understand how millennials operate to adjust your sales tactics accordingly.
One important item to note about millennials is they are very entrepreneurial minded. They strive for success and do not think it is necessary to follow someone else’s path. Whether it is a result of a baby boomer’s retirement or through their personal entrepreneurial ambition, millennials will quickly become the decision makers.
Keep in mind the following four best practices when engaging with your millennial prospects:
- Get Social
Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation in the workplace to date, and their love for technology does not replace their need for face-to-face interaction; it enhances how they get to know you and your people.
LinkedIn is one of the easiest ways to connect with the millennial audience. After all, they make up 38 percent of the total user base, and there are more than 11 million millennial global decision makers on LinkedIn. Think of it as your online chamber of commerce. It is an easy way to connect to the prospects you are building relationships with and a way to stay connected and in front of them.
When it comes to selling accounting-related services, relationships have always been and will continue to be the driving force behind decision making. Millennials browse Yelp, Zomato, and Trip Advisor to decide where to grab tacos with friends on a Tuesday night, so you can be sure they will be checking out your firm’s LinkedIn page as well as your personal profile and those of your partners before making a formal decision about becoming a client.
- Think Outside 8-5
Whether they are simply night owls, checking Twitter while waiting to meet friends for a late dinner, or perusing social media to make sure they did not miss anything important before heading to bed, millennials are engaging well after the typical workday. A common best practice for posting content on social media includes taking action sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., depending on the platform. Studies have shown that 35 percent of this millennial audience tends to consume content between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
The good news is you do not need to be a night owl to hit that sweet spot of engaging this particular audience. Use marketing automation platforms such as Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Sprout Social to schedule your social media posts in advance. With tools like these available, there is no reason you should have to work around the clock to engage with your prospects on their schedule.
- Be Brief
Millennials want information to be short and simple. They are looking for a different type of content. They tend to favor infographics, gifs, videos, and memes, which are more easily digestible than the SlideShares, charts, graphs, and trend analyses that baby boomers gravitate toward. The optimal length of an article for millennials is 300 words or less—200 words less than baby boomers and the Gen Xers.
You can blame millennials’ short attention span on microwave meals or how they communicated with friends on AOL Instant Messenger using acronyms such as ‘BRB’, ‘GTG’, and ‘LOL’ during their middle school days. Hit the high notes and capture their attention with the most important information as quickly as possible. This applies to all forms of communication.
- Information on the Go
Millennials grew up eating dinner on the road via fast food in the car on the way to church or after soccer practice. Is it surprising this generation likes to receive content while engaged in an entirely different activity as well?
According to a 2015 Constant Contact study, when it comes to consuming content, all generations ranked blog posts, images, comments, and e-books as four of the top five ways they prefer to consume content. What different medium rounded out the top five for millennials? Audiobooks.
What does that mean for CPA firms? It is time to think about having thought leaders at your firm share their knowledge in a recorded podcast. Thought leadership is not just about the written article or blog post anymore; millennials want to hear about your expertise as well. Audiobooks and podcasts also humanize the voice of your people, literally. If you share portable content with a millennial prospect, they likely will listen.
Change the Way You Credentialize & Communicate
Chances are you have been in a marketing or business development role for many years. You have established skills and sales methodologies you rely on to be successful. With millennials finding their way into the decision making seat, now is the time to construct a sales methodology that will win them over.
Proven sales skills like building relationships, focusing on needs, and putting the buyer first will not change. However, to be taken seriously, you need to have an active social media presence, if you do not already have one. Share information in a format they are looking for, when they are looking for it.
If you step outside your comfort zone, you will see success. Keep it simple, communicate in new ways (e.g., a LinkedIn message vs. a phone call), and meet millennial prospects when they are available; you can turn this elusive buyer into a new client.