A new industry is thriving by providing insights to salespeople of all kinds (but especially real estate): how and what to sell to millennials. Sometimes I finish one of these advice pieces surprised that millennials have two eyes and two legs.

  • Carry no preconceptions and build an understanding of the client's needs and wants.
  • Use a phone intake to determine region of origin, education level and control preference.
  • There's a difference between the cheapest deal and the best deal.

A new industry is thriving by providing insights to salespeople of all kinds (but especially real estate): how and what to sell to millennials.

The industry churns out piles of columns with great specificity on how unique this generation is in habits of living, communication, managing financial affairs and expectations, the long list of things and approaches which they ignore, how different are their jobs and work attitude, parenting, consumption and values in general.

Sometimes I finish one of these advice pieces surprised that millennials have two eyes and two legs.

I have been a peddler of one thing or another since I was 17 (1966). Dress clothing, mountaineering gear and outerwear, and, Lord knows, real estate and mortgages. (Also — please don’t tell the children — for five years in the ’80s I sold early synthetic derivatives of mortgaged-backed securities.)

Every day I make loans to people of all ages and types.

A lot of Inman’s readership are real estate salespeople, and the following will help your work. For those who are not professionals, it will help you to know how you should expect to be treated.

How to sell to millennials (and everybody else)

First of all, when a client makes initial contact with a salesperson, it is the professional’s job to carry no preconceptions and to build an understanding of the client’s needs and wants through interaction. And to verify all initial hunches by asking questions.

From there, it’s easy to get another key concept: The variability between individual millennials is bigger, far bigger, than any difference between millennials and boomers, X’ers, the Greatest, or any other crude demographic cut. Every client is unique.

While always wary of stereotyping, a smart salesperson will take inventory of the client, and actual client patterns will emerge.

The smartest salespeople still use the telephone at intake, always. All other new-age means are hopelessly crippled, no matter how convenient.

In a phone exchange, the first four or five client sentences will often reveal a regional accent, and regional cultures are more powerful than any generational divide.

Choice of words will hint at education. You’ll pick up mood: distant, cold, nervous, friendly, funny, and, most important — enjoying contact with a salesperson or not.

Then control — is the client trying to drive the agenda, to confine it, or letting you drive? Quick on the uptake, or deliberate? Comfortable with math, or not (the enlightened ask, quickly)?

A huge fork in the road: “Have you done this before?” Bought a house, applied for a loan? If so, where and when? Regional experiences are very different — also, 2004 a hell of a lot different than now.

Then the black arts of sales. If a client says, “I’m collecting rates and closing costs for my wife. What do you have?” Better find a way to get to the wife, or you’re wasting your time.

“I’m calling to get your commission rate to compare some firms.” Convince the client to expand the conversation to services provided — a classic battle over the agenda — or you may as well go home.

The client may succeed in confining the conversation but may never learn the difference between the cheapest deal and the best deal.

It’s all acutely personal! And the professional must listen hard.

Not one assumption about leanings of millennials in general will help in the slightest.

Lou Barnes is a mortgage broker based in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at lbarnes@pmglending.com.

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