Millennials vs. Old Schoolers: The Generational Gap in Social Selling

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

When developing a social selling pilot program, age is one of the primary ways sales enablement and sales operations leaders decide who they think is most likely to succeed or not at social selling. Age is a major factor because many organizations will launch social selling pilots with the inside sales or lead generation teams, which are typically made up of millennials. However, only choosing millennials for your pilot program means you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Justin Shriber, the Head of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, presented incredible data that contradicted the idea of starting your social selling pilot with “digital natives” instead of “digital immigrants.”

Digital Natives

Digital natives are millennials, who are born after 1980. The iPad and social media were part of their DNA and their day-to-day lives from their teenage into their university years, and into their adult working life.

Old Schoolers

Old schoolers, also known as “digital immigrants,” didn’t have social media as part of their growth and development years, but were likely introduced to it in their 20s and 30s. I fall into this group, as I was born in 1978.

Old Schoolers Bring Value

Justin Shriber discussed a LinkedIn study, which evaluated the LinkedIn SSI scores of the performance of people under the age of 35 versus those that were over 35. And you may be surprised to hear that those between the ages of 35 and 45 outperformed sales pros under 35 years of age by 5% per unit on the SSI scores! They scored on average 5 more points, and those over 45 scored 6 points higher than those under 35.

Why that might be?

The LinkedIn SSI score is made up of four components:

  1. The brand around your profile.

  2. Finding your ideal customer.

  3. Engaging that customer through conversation.

  4. Sharing insight.

Sales pros over 45 years old are highly connected, skilled at using LinkedIn, and are able to roadmap relationships in both their personal and customers’ sphere of influence. They have years of experience with traditional networking and can leverage their business acumen to build on their sphere of influence.

Old school sales pros or digital immigrants bring a huge advantage to the table. Here at Sales for Life, we’ve trained 60,000 sales pros, and have seen incredible success stories from senior sales pros, field sales, channel sales, account management, because they have relationships and are able to roadmap relationships through tools like LinkedIn.

A 45-year-old takes the time to craft their personal brand online. They stop and truly think about what they want to accomplish, who they want to have in their network, and what kind of brand persona they want to have online.       

In contrast, millennials, generally speaking, were born with social media in their hands. Social media has always been there for millennials. While they may evolve their LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts over time, they might not make a conscious effort to build their personal brand from scratch through careful planning of their social media presence.

So when you’re choosing which sales reps to include in your social selling pilot program, don’t forget to include digital immigrants, who bring a lot of value to the table.

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The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling