I Don’t Do Lunch

Does the transactional communication style of those in younger generations affect your business? A friend manages a sales organization for a heavy equipment manufacturer. While most of his sales reps are 45-plus, the engineers who provide installation and service are in their mid-twenties. He receives regular complaints from the reps about the cavalier way in which the engineers treat their customer contacts. One of his reps said to him the other day, “I spend all my time building relationships, and our engineers treat them like idiots!”

Do you find your organization in a similar situation? Do your older and younger employees’ communication styles contradict each other? If so, how is it affecting the tenured business relationships that you have with your customers?

There are probably several factors influencing this particular situation. Yes, some of it is about the difference in ages between veteran sales reps and younger engineers. To this we should add the level of engagement these young professionals have in their jobs. We also need to consider that these engineers are working with individuals for whom technical expertise may not be a strong suit. Finally, we have to be careful not to simply accept one version of what’s going on. As there are a lot of factors to consider in my friends’ situation, there are also many things which influence the dynamics of business relationships in general. What does a sandwich manager do to help young employees establish the type of business relationship that you have with your veteran clients?

Begin with education. Spend more time helping your young professionals better understand how to communicate with your customers. After all, it’s not just about technical skills; part of their job is to maintain the relationship. Next, I would check with the customers directly, but discreetly. You don’t want your reps to think you’re checking on them. But at the same time, you need to get a clear understanding of any concerns your customers may have.Thirdly, I would conduct some training on the differences in attitudes between the generations. It’s probably safe to assume that both groups are leaping to mistaken assumptions about the other. Finally, I might ask the reps to bring the engineers along earlier in the relationship. This will allow them to get to know each other better. It will also allow both of them to see the other in action in front of the customer. But remember, these relationships take time.

The bottom  line  is  this: Building  and maintaining  relationships  is  important to any business. If you notice that your younger employees don’t value this aspect of the process, show them why it’s crucial, but more importantly, teach them how to maintain relationships with those who are much older than them.

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