Don’t You Forget About Me: Selling to Generation X

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Recently, CBS (for our international readers, CBS is an American television broadcasting company) ran a news story with a graphic listing out all of the generations born since 1928. Well . . . They listed almost all of them.

Upon reviewing the graphic featured in this tweet, you’d think something terrible must have happened to those people born between 1965 and 1980. I mean, it must have been so devastating that CBS couldn’t even list the years! Or, maybe, it’s just another time we’ve forgotten about Generation X even existing.


Generation X is totally missing
from the conversation.

Generation X has been missing from the conversation for quite a while now as companies chase down millennials as the most prized sales prospects, job candidates, and influencers.

Should Sales & Marketing Pros Pay More Attention to Generation X? YES!

I’m as guilty as the next marketer when it comes to ignoring my Gen X peers. We’ve become so enamored with the idea that millennials are the most tech-savvy, the most influential, and the most “most,” that we’ve forgotten that Gen X actually matters and that Generation X influence is increasing as more baby boomers retire. Additionally, affluent Generation X households earn 23 percent more than affluent millennials.

AdWeek notes the following about Xers.

  • Gen X has over $125 billion in spending power
  • This generation earns 31 percent of the income dollars in America
  • They have the highest rate of brand loyalty
  • 81 percent of Generation X shops online
  • The average Gen Xer spends over $1900 per year online
Is your sales team excluding #GenX as part of their target audience? 🎯 Find out why this is a mistake. #SalesStrategy Click To Tweet

What Do Salespeople Need to Remember When It Comes to Generation X?

I’m so glad you asked! Generation X is . . .

Technologically Adept

Believe it or not, Generation X spends more time on social media than millennials according to a study by Nielsen. Don’t overlook social networking when it comes to reaching affluent people of this generation. The same goes for B2B sales — this generation is taking over C-Suites, and we are on social media.

If this strikes you as astonishing, think about it. Gen X grew up playing video games — some of us even religiously trekked to an arcade on a daily basis, a pocketful of quarters in our possession, to play those games. We were willing to pay per game play! That’s how devoted this generation is to technology.

Also, don’t forget about some of the movies we were watching — War Games with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. It’s an 80s classic! Plus, check out those high hopes for technology that were represented in Back to the Future II.

Self Sufficient

Many people in this generation grew up as “latchkey” kids. They came home from school and were pretty much on their own until mom or dad came home from work.

Lots of societal changes led to this latchkey phenomenon. Women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers due to divorce rates rising — single moms needed to work to support their families. Women who weren’t divorced also began working full time to contribute to their family incomes and to pursue professional aspirations.

Gen X kids learned to do their homework on their own, fix their own snacks, and take care of themselves. As adults, we still like our freedom. That’s why we want to educate ourselves on products and services.

We don’t want a salesperson coming around to tell us what to buy or what to do. We want to control the situation ourselves. If you’re going to be a friendly guide who can answer questions and give advice, that’s totally awesome. Give us a call. If you want to tell us how to do things and what to buy, no thanks.

Cynical

This generation often gets labeled as cynical. Maybe that’s unfair across the board, but look at what people in this age group grew up with: Watergate, gas shortages in the 70s, the Iranian hostage crisis, a prevailing sense of doom during the Cold War, the Iran-Contra scandal, the emerging and growing AIDS epidemic. That’s a lot of deception, gloom, and doom. No wonder we question authority and do our own research before accepting an answer.

When you sell to a Gen X decision maker, provide facts. Point them to other customers whom they can talk to about what you’re trying to sell them. Let them know about independent, third-party reviews of your product or service. Help them feel good about giving you their business.

Ready to Sell to Gen X?

Do your customer personas include Generation X, or is this age group totally off your radar? While your competitors court millennials and Generation Z, you should cozy up to Xers. You could find an untapped segment that’s ready for you to reach out to them.

 

Want to Get in the Gen X Mindset?

Spend a little time getting in the Generation X mindset with these helpful lists. Learn our ways, and we might just give you our money.

Listen

Watch

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The Karate Kid
Sixteen Candles
The Breakfast Club
Pretty in Pink
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Back to the Future
War Games
Dirty Dancing

Read

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Super Fudge
Old copies of Tiger Beat

Consider

This generation is the bridge between analog and digital life. While change occurs more frequently now, this generation observed many of the biggest technological leaps from a consumer perspective.

Some members of this generation have:

  • played music on 8-track, vinyl, cassette, CD, and streaming services
  • received and watched television via antenna, cable/satellite, and streaming services
  • used corded rotary phones, wireless touch-tone handsets, cell phones the size of a brick, cell phones the size of a credit card, and smartphones
  • learned to type on a typewriter, a skill that translated well to using computers at home and work

 

Don’t be like CBS and completely forget about Gen X. If you’re only seeking out millennials to sell to, you’re missing out on major opportunities. Get to know the Gen X generation and what makes them tick and speak to that when you’re selling to them. You may find a spike in your sales.

 

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Darryl Praill

Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, is a high-tech marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience spanning startups, re-starts, consolidations, acquisitions, divestments and IPO’s. He has been widely quoted in the media including television, press, and trade publications. He is a guest lecturer, public speaker, and radio personality and has been featured in numerous podcasts, case studies, and best-selling books.

Praill is a former recipient of the coveted Forty Under 40 Award, and has held senior executive roles in leading companies including Sybase, Cognos (now IBM), webPLAN (now Kinaxis), and CML Emergency Services (now AIRBUS). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding across multiple organizations and consulted with world-class corporations including Salesforce, SAP, and Nielsen. He is a Computer Science graduate from Sheridan College.

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