A Failure to Communicate – Guest Post by Sarah Baker Andrus

Sarah Baker Andrus

From Jen: Today is the last day of our week of guest posts, and I’m simply thrilled to bring you the insights today of Sarah Baker Andrus of Vector Marketing Corporation, the marketing arm of Cutco. Vector plays an interesting role in the industry, as they market their products almost exclusively through college students in the summer. This means that they have a very keen understanding of what it takes to attract, train, and retain Generation Y. In today’s article, Sarah shares with us some insightful tips on communicating with this up and coming generation of our next direct sellers.

“A Failure to Communicate”

What’s the average age of the people on your team?  Have you ever wondered if you’re missing something because of difficulty attracting younger people into your business?  The direct selling business would seem to be tailor-made for “Generation Y” or Millennials – those individuals under 30.  Research shows that Millennials want flexibility and independence, they are far more entrepreneurial than previous generations, they want to give back, and they understand that the security of being an employee for 30 years with the same company is a thing of the past.

This presents direct sellers with an enormous opportunity and an equally big challenge.  We have a relationship-based business model, and effective communication is the key to success in our industry.  Yet this is the generation that was on a computer before they knew how to read.  A cell phone isn’t an amazing tool they marvel at, it’s something that would be confiscated if a teacher found them texting during class.  They keep in touch with friends through Facebook and Twitter.  In fact, the very term “friend” has become a verb in their vocabulary, as in “Friend me on Facebook, dude!”

My two sons sit squarely in the middle of this group – one is 21 and the other is 16.  I can tell you from personal experience that the way they communicate with their friends bears no resemblance to the hours my friends and I would spend on the phone in my teenage years.  Instead, the exchanges are limited to 140 characters.  There’s no room for nuance or niceties – unless you think a smiley face emoticon conveys deep, personal expression.  I can chalk some of this up to general teenage apathy, and some of it to their gender, but what remains is clearly emerging as a different style of communication.

If we as an industry want to recruit and sell to this generation, we’re going to have to adjust so that we can communicate with them.  That means recognizing that Millennials do only 30% of their interactions on a land line, for example, while 54% of their interactions with friends are done through texting.  And, that long list of Facebook “friends” they have?  It’s bound to include more than just a few people they met in a bar one night.  Maybe they are prospects, maybe they’re not.   If you’re hoping to bring Millennials onto your team, here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Get yourself a crash course in texting and learn what “brb,” “ttyl” and “jk”* mean.
  2. Adapt scripts and approaches for email, Facebook and Twitter
  3. Plan to spend more time providing guidance to Millenials up front.  They want to know exactly what is expected. This time will pay off in the long run.
  4. Look at your recognition efforts – this is the generation that earned ribbons and trophies just for being on the team.
  5. Make sure your incentives are “cool.” Not sure?  Ask them what they want – they will tell you.

Attracting Millenials will take effort, but once you have them you will open up the floodgates to a whole new demographic – and you don’t want to miss that opportunity.

*Be right back, talk to you later, just kidding

 

Sarah Baker Andrus is director of external relations for Vector Marketing Corporation, the sole distributor of CUTCO Cutlery.  Vector’s sales force is comprised primarily of college students ages 18-22, and Sarah’s role is to assure the best possible recruiting climate for the business by promoting the sales opportunity and managing Vector’s corporate image. For more information check out:  www.vectormarketing.com,

www.facebook.com/vector.marketing.corp,

www.facebook.com/sarah.baker.andrus

2 Responses to A Failure to Communicate – Guest Post by Sarah Baker Andrus
  1. Pat Zahn
    August 5, 2011 | 11:06 am

    No doubt that you need to know who you are targeting and “speak their language” – from a team-building perspective, we need to look for people who can attract those we have difficulty attracting.

    Now, I just have to say this: I love Cutco knives, I’ve had them for years but I don’t love the way the young sales force has been taught to sell (at least in my neck of the woods – and it has been the same approach for years by many different people.)
    Pat Zahn recently posted..I’m Environmentally Conscious and I love to Drive

    • Jennifer Fong
      August 5, 2011 | 12:58 pm

      Pat, while you are of course entitled to your opinion, I would appreciate it if you could show more respect to a guest poster who has volunteered her time to share her extensive experience with us. Vector has plenty of customer service channels for the type of feedback you’ve shared here, if you feel the need to share it. I personally am very impressed with the business skills that Vector graduates walk out with, and I’ve told my own kids to consider it as a summer job when they get old enough.

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