I’ve been increasingly noticing this throughout the past year. When George W. Bush was in the White House the average age of his policy advisors was 48. When Barack Obama came into power that average came down to just 38. Not only was that always going to have an effect on a country’s defense policy, its attitude to healthcare and more, but it’s also had a very noticeable, and possibly dramatic, effect on federal policy towards technology and B2B markets.
If you go to a Microsoft developers conference and take a visual gauge of the typical age of those attending, then do the same at a Google or Facebook event, there’s a gulf between them. Anecdotally, the Microsoft event attracts 40-55 yr. olds, the Google event 20-40 yr. olds. That’s probably not a shock to anyone. But when you’re advising on U.S. tech policy for implementation over the next ten years, and you’re currently say in your late thirties, you’re far more likely to be flavoring your initial policy documents in terms more preferable to Google’s view of the world than Microsoft’s. Or IBM’s. Or even Oracle’s. You may not be conscious of this, and no-one’s suggesting it’s deliberate, but it is significant. And the traditional vendors are certainly noticing it.
I was meeting with a large professional services firm this week and I raised the issue of a generational shift in those influencing their major client decisions. If it’s happening in their market it hadn’t yet been noticed. That’s not to say they haven’t changed their practices over recent years – they’re now well on board with their social media outreach, their content marketing, etc. They consider themselves an ‘agile’ organization in every sense. But this generational change is happening – I’ve seen it too many times in other sectors for it not to be a broader trend now. Just don’t mistake this for the bland ‘youngsters live on Twitter now’ line. It’s far deeper than that.
As a salesperson, what happens when your very understanding of what constitutes ‘a logical next step’, a ‘safe decision’ or a ‘risky purchase’ is no longer even mirrored by your prospect?