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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Is there a Generation Problem in Sales?


As a Sales Consultant I get to work with Salespeople of all ages.


3 gen men

And, I love the diversity.

Gen Y

Gen X

Baby Boomer









Go the extra Mile








Influencing Factors




Ninja Turtles






NYC twin towers





This is my list, how I see ‘difference’.

Personally I love them all, but that’s because I’m a Baby Boomer. Two parents, male and female, two brothers and loads of girl cousins, stay at home Mom and working Dad. Encouraged, but not forced, to study. Stand for the national anthem and honour the flag. I have 5 kids from 42 thru 26, and an 18 year old grand-daughter so I have some insights.

The thing is; there is a clear difference between GenX and GenY which is causing them problems in Selling together. In fact, in my experience, it’s easier for GenY to sell WITH (not always to) a Baby-boomer. It’s got to do with their views about (or their attitude to) Independence-Interdependence.

Baby -Boomers and GenY are comfortable with ‘inter-dependence’ in one case its small community ‘Family’ in the other its bigger community ‘Friends’. And in both cases it extends to both Friends and Family.

If you don’t believe me compare 20 of each BB, GenY, GenX on Facebook for both ‘community’ type, size and activity. However, GenX limits themselves to close friends, few family and the acquaintances who may be ‘useful’ to them.

How does this effect Sales? Quite a lot!


As the Baby-boomers
are leaving Sales, GenX isn’t too happy with their new GenY colleagues and subordinates.


GenX find GenY “NEEDY!”

The GenY Subordinates and Colleagues find their GenX Bosses and Colleagues Distant and Cold.
GenY preferred the warmer and more involved Baby Boomers!

I am seeing ‘step-overs’ happening more and more. GenY’s are going directly to their Baby Boomer CEO or other ‘B-B’ C suite contact for support. ‘B-B’ CEO’s are more comfortable in the community of GenY Sales people than the individualist GenX Sales Manager!

How are we going to cope?

    • VALUE Diversity! Strive for an inclusive mixture,
      be part of a broad Community

    • DON’T rush the Baby-boomers out the door.

    • STOP trying to make the GenY’s in your image.

Have a look in the mirror, YOU are not as young as you were,
and you will be the previous generation soon enough.
GenY isn’t going to put up with your demands,
they have their own way of doing things.

Looking at some Sales Centres of Excellence in Big IT,
I couldn’t help but notice how well GenY and the Baby Boomers ‘got on’,
and that the GenX’s were sometimes a resentful minority!


“Coaching and Counselling” is easier between Grandchildren and Grandparents than it ever was between Parents and Children.
Perhaps its natural, when you ‘rebel’ against a Parent, you become more like your Grandparent!

Baby-boomers have been slow to Sales Social Media because they didn’t know HOW,
but GenX are being slow because they don’t see WHY,
and GenY simply live there!


  1. Really interesting article, Brian! As a very late Baby Boomer or a very early Gen X’er (depending on whose dates you want to accept) I find characteristics from both generations in my ‘make up’. I would like to say the best of both but I would just be kidding myself!

    Being surrounded by sales guys of pretty much the same age as me, I don’t see the conflicts that you mention. However, I do very much recognise the clear differences between my ‘digital immigrant’ generation and the post 1980’s ‘digital native’ generation, in particular the natives inability to stop using mobile phones or portable music players for more than seconds at a time.

    In particular I’m concerned that they are losing (or never gaining) the necessary skills for face-to-face communication. This has the potential to cause immense problems when you have Boomers selling to Gen Y or Gen X selling to Gen Z buyers and vice versa. I’m not convinced the ‘step-over’ effect will be enough to overcome these radically different social skill sets.

    Of course, the smart salesperson will always adapt their communication methods to the preferred methods of their buyers but are there enough of them around?

  2. Thanks, Neil. I wouldn't worry to much about Gen Y (or your word 'natives'), they are coping. Its others who are not coping with them. As you so rightly say, its Sellers of all generations who have to learn how to adapt to Buyers of all generations. And, we will need less and less "smart salespeople" as Transactional Buying automates Selling more and more.

    Just enjoy the difference, the diversity!

  3. A distinct generational divide is emerging in the UK property market, new research has suggested.

    Carried out by HSBC, the study revealed that while younger people are finding it increasingly difficult to purchase a home, older individuals remain reluctant to sell.

    The investigation revealed just 12 per cent of those questioned are looking to move in the next six months - and of those aged over 55 who are planning on staying put, 61 per cent noted it was because they feel happy in their current surroundings.

    In addition, people under 34 who are unwilling to buy or sell a dwelling cited insufficient deposits and concerns over mortgages as their main reasons.

    Peter Dockar, head of mortgages at HSBC - which first started operations in Hong Kong in 1865 - noted: "The current economic climate is of particular concern to younger people who either want to get on the housing ladder or move on to a larger property."

  4. I always enjoy Janet Spirer. Co-founder Sales Horizons take on sales issues: