13 Apr Cross-Generational Selling: Age Matters
Much of today’s current marketing advice is focused on selling to millennials.The news last year that this group has surpassed baby boomers in population sent market analysts and businesses scrambling to capture the business of 79.4 million people between the ages of 22 and 36 years old. While this is, indeed, an important share of the market, throwing all your resources into courting one segment of the population just isn’t good business sense—especially in the hot tub industry.
The technique of dividing your market into different customer segments has been around for decades, and it works. Factors such as income, social class, geography, gender and age are some of the most common market divisions, but let’s focus on age—specifically, selling to different generations. When you segment the market by generations, you get four distinct groups of buyers.
- Millennials: born 1981-1995; currently aged 22-36; population around 79 million
- Generation X: born 1965-1980; currently aged 35-52; population around 65 million
- Baby Boomers: born 1946-1954; currently aged 58-71; population around 75 million
- Silent Generation: born before 1945; currently aged 72 and up; population around 28 million
As a hot tub retailer, which of these generations do you market to? That’s right, you market to all of them. But how should you tailor your selling techniques to meet the needs of four very different age groups? Stay tuned!
“Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation”
Just as different genders want and need different things, so do varying age groups. They are also motivated by different factors and by differing worldviews. Salespeople and marketers need to understand what these different generations value in retail experiences. The National Retailer Federation (NRF) offers this analysis of generational values and shopping behaviors:
- Millennials tend to be more self-focused and desire an emotional connection to their shopping experiences. They want to know that they are important, and they value expediency. They want what they want when they want it. They’re influenced by personal recommendations, fast checkout, mood, impulse, and atmosphere. And let’s not forget the availability of technology, Millennials love technology.
- Generation Xers like to know why they need your product. This generation values accessibility and variety, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed with options. Influences include ratings and reviews, atmosphere, fast checkout, and technology. Try it before you buy it appeals to them.
- Baby Boomers want to know if what you’re selling is worth buying. Two things influence what boomers will buy and where they will buy it: value and quality.
- The Silent Generation grew up in the depression era and usually won’t buy it if they don’t need it. When they do make a purchase, their focus is on quality and reliability.
You may have noticed that the older the generation, the fewer the influential factors in their buying behaviors. Does that mean it’s easier to sell to one generation than another? Not necessarily.
Generational Selling Techniques
There is no “one size fits all” in sales. This means we need to stop focusing on ABC (always be closing) and start focusing on ABH (always be helping)! Knowing what they most likely value and how they shop gives you that ability to be helpful on an individual level.
But be careful here. When asked about his approach to generational selling, Bill Renter of Best Hot Tubs in Long Island emphasized not making assumptions. “Assume nothing,” says Renter, “just because someone is 70, it doesn’t mean they suffer from aches and pains.” The point being that emphasizing the pain relieving aspects of hot tubs may not be the best approach. Plus, assuming infirmity may insult the customer and send that potential sale right out the front door. Instead, rely on your discovery questions to determine what each customer’s pain point or problem they’re hoping to solve with a hot tub purchase.
Assume nothing. Just because someone is 70, it doesn’t mean they suffer from aches and pains. - Bill Renter, Best Hot Tubs
So, how should retailers use the above insight into values and shopping behaviors of each generation into their sales approach so it works to encourage a sale? Here are some actionable tips for spa salespeople:
- Be authentic. Show your personality and avoid a canned sales pitch.
- Respect their knowledge. They do their research and come into the store already knowing about the product. Try not to talk down to them.
- Don’t ask “what will it take to send you home with a hot tub today?” They know they can buy the same thing at a dozen other places, and they won’t appreciate what they perceive as pushiness.
- Know your tech. Let them show you what they found on the internet and then appeal to their desire to have it right now by explaining how you can get it to them faster and/or with more and better service than the online retailer.
According to Forbes, “Millennials have grown up at a time when it’s possible to align their shopping with their values—the chance to choose humane, green, fair trade, organic, employee-owned and so forth, or not.” In light of this, highlight the eco-friendliness of your products and products that are made in the USA.
- Family is everything. Highlight the family togetherness aspect of owning a hot tub. For parents, let them know that a hot tub could be safe gathering place for teens and their friends. There are also several security options for those families with younger children.
- Health benefits. Focus on the stress relief and relaxation benefits for this overwhelmed generation. If you have a test spa, invite them to try it out once or more than once so they can see for themselves the difference it can make on their bodies and minds.
- Concerned about finances. Show them what they need, not what makes you the highest commission. Emphasize financing options, along with sales and discount opportunities.
Business2Community reports that Generation X currently possesses “29% of estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars,” giving them “more spending power than any other generation.” They tend to spend their money on items of quality and value and once they become customers, they are “86% likely to remain” customers. So these are the customers you want to strongly promote other chemical and maintenance programs to post-spa purchase. It’s time to start remembering the “forgotten generation.”
- Less tech savvy. They prefer face-to-face buying experiences so make store layouts convenient for them with aisles wide enough for wheelchairs, steps and railings for access into spas, hot tubs displayed at an angle for easier viewing, and larger print signage to make them feel at home in your store.
- Emphasize the quality and value of the product. They want more bang for their buck. Explain why your product is worth buying over other those offered by other sellers.
- 54% are active and healthy so emphasize the health benefits of your products. You can even point out the money, effort, and time they currently spend on feeling better compared to what comes down to dollars a day for a hot tub they could use every day in the privacy and convenience of their own backyard.
This generation is raging against aging. They have active lifestyles, disposable incomes, and deserve marketing focus. Baby Boomers take their time and give big ticket purchases significant consideration before deciding to buy, so it’s important not to rush them.
The Silent Generation
- Be attentive. Take the time to talk to them. Express an interest in why they are interested in your product.
- Be appreciative. This generation tends to feel underappreciated, so take the time to follow up with them whether they choose to buy a hot tub that day or not. Thank them for coming in and let them know what you may have now that fits their needs that you didn’t have before.
This generation is the least likely to make an impulsive purchase and the most likely to be influenced by print advertising. They want comfort, a sense of belonging and the best value for their money.
The Good News…
You may have noticed that there is some crossover in generational sales tactics. All four generations have a few similar expectations from a retail experience. In fact, all four generations place value for the money, fair pricing, product quality, budgets, and reliability as top influencers of their purchasing decisions, with customer service topping the list.
Why should spa retailers care about cross generational selling instead of focusing exclusively on a one-size-fits-all geared towards millennials? Easy…Millennials constitute approximately 79 million members of the buying public while the other three generations constitute around 168 million members of the buying public. You do the math.