This is a picture of the Tandy TRS-80, the first computer that showed up on a rolling cart in my elementary school when I was in fourth grade. This started a journey for me that led to buying a laptop in my first year as a sales person so I could use Act. The following year, the internet browser was launched. Since that day in fourth grade, every aspect of my personal and business life has been affected by computers.
I am Generation X.
These days, we talk a lot about Millennial sales reps in their 20’s and Baby Boomer business owners in their early 60’s. However, what about Gen-X, the generation born in the mid 60’s until the mid 80’s? This generation is currently between 35 and 55 years old. They make or influence almost every business buying decision. As such, it is critical that we understand the buying habits of this generation.
Here are a few quick stats about Generation X:
- There are 82 million Gen-Xer’s in the United States
- Many are entrepreneurs, not trusting large corporations
- They are cynical, driving them to research
- They value authenticity
(For more insight on Gen-X read this Bloomberg article on the plight of Gen-X.)
Gen-Xer’s Are Decision Makers
I am in Generation X. I’m 44 years old. I have started several companies and sit on the board of two non-profits. Every day I make buying decisions for these organizations.
I was born in 1971. That puts me right in the middle of Generation X.
Yes, I am a decision maker.
Gen-Xer’s Are Internet Pioneers
Not only am I a Gen-X decision maker, I am also an internet pioneer. Beyond using computers in elementary, high school, and college, my journey with computers continued when I entered the workforce in 1993.
I Have Always Had a Laptop Computer
Frustrated with the index card box that the sales manager at the local Lanier branch gave me, I went to Office Depot and purchased my first laptop computer in 1994 (pictured here) along with a copy of Act software. About a year after that, Lanier issued laptops to every sales rep to create proposals and generate orders. Essentially, I have never known what it was like to sell without a laptop and a cell phone.
I Have Four Screens On My Desk
Today, I sit in front of four screens. I have two monitors–one to work on and the other for email and Skype. My iPhone 6 plus and iPad also sit on my desk with apps open. The moment I have a question, I open up my web browser.
Why This Is Critical
Many of the dealer principals in our industry are seasoned veterans from the Baby Boomer generation. For this generation, computing systems began in back rooms to crunch data. Computers were something that others were paid to manage. Sure, these days virtually all Baby Boomers use computers to check email and browse.
Unlike Gen-Xers who have always known the internet, most Boomers adopted personal computers and the internet much later in their careers. This meant that their business habits and buying habits were formed before the advent of the internet.
It’s no wonder that some Boomers are skeptical when we start talking about how Buyer 2.0 does the bulk of their research online. “That’s not how I buy” is a true statement for many older business owners. The problem is that the buying habits of the younger set of Gen-X decision makers differ dramatically from the buying habits of Boomers.
Look, I know that these generation distinctions are somewhat vague approximations. However, the advent of computers and the internet syncs up very closely with the emergence of Gen-X. These are the business leaders of today. Their buying habits are different.
Gen-Xer’s Are Buyer 2.0
When we talk about Buyer 2.0, we’re talking about buyers that complete an average of 57% of the buying process before talking to a sales rep or vendor. This is exactly what I do. This is precisely how I buy:
- I research solutions to problems on Google all day long.
- I use social media every day: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. (I even use Instagram and Snap Chat to monitor my kids.)
- I always have a mobile device handy
Baby Boomer business owners need to understand this: Gen-Xers are now decision makers. They do online research. They use social media. If you want to reach them, you need to make your online strategy a major priority.