How to Sell to the Generation X B2B Decision Maker

November 18, 2014
min read time
Sam Aparicio
Sam Aparicio
Co-founder & CEO, Ring.io
How to Sell to the Generation X B2B Decision Maker

Generation X. That’s the type of name you’d normally give to something you can’t define, but we’ve got a few decades of historical information to work from in this case. The debut of MTV in 1981 is often mentioned as a key cultural reference point for Generation X. In the era of Snapchat and social media, MTV seems downright quaint in comparison. But make no mistake, it was revolutionary at the time. It was one of the first media platforms to give young people a real voice, an early precursor to the digital era.

Generation X was rarely afraid to put that voice to use, sometimes to the dismay of earlier generations. Some commentators even described it as a “lost” generation, at the time. That did not turn out to be the case, of course. In many ways, Generation X was the bridge between post-WWII culture and the high-tech world we enjoy today. How does that help you sell to Generation X B2B decision-makers? Read on to find out.

Generation X: The Basics

As with most generations, the exact birth-years that make up Generation X are up for debate. Most experts say that members of Generation X were born between the early 1960s and the early 1980s, give or take a few years. So while MTV and the culture at that time are solid reference points for early Gen Xers, later members of the generation actually have more in common with millennials.

Early on, Gen X was considered a slacker generation. They spent too much time using technology, watching TV, and just generally subverting authority (sound familiar?). Fast-forward to today, and most Gen Xers are in their 30s or 40s, established in their fields, and excelling despite those early concerns. That age range also means that Generation X members are now in the perfect position to be B2B decision-makers.

Selling to Generation X

Like the boomer generation before it, Generation X has witnessed tremendous cultural change in its lifetime. That makes it a bit more difficult to draw broad conclusions about selling to the entire generation. Still, there’s common ground to be found, despite how much the world has changed in the last 30 years.

  • Members of Generation X really appreciate a good deal, and know the value of a dollar. They’ve seen the economy crest to unprecedented heights with the real estate and web booms. They’ve also seen those booms become bubbles and burst, perhaps more dramatically than in any generation since the Great Depression. You don’t have to slash prices, but you should be ready to explain the value of your offer in clear, honest terms.
  • Don’t assume anything about individual Gen X decision-makers. Though internet access wasn’t widely available until most Gen Xers reached adulthood, technology still exposed Gen X to the wider world in ways that weren’t possible for previous generations. Combine that with the counter-cultural leanings of the Gen X period, and it’s no surprise that this generation strongly values individuality.
  • For the most part, you can expect Generation X to be comfortable with technology. Younger Gen Xers were really the first group to grow up with computers as a part of daily life, and became adults right around the time that the Internet was taking off. So these are people who will generally be comfortable engaging digitally, like millennials.
  • Gen Xers are often natural skeptics, a consequence of growing up in the information age. This doesn’t mean they’re distrustful, but it does mean you’ll have trouble appealing to them if your offer is all style and no substance. Stick with the facts, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
  • Generation X isn’t afraid to branch out and try new things. It would be impossible to succeed as a Gen Xer otherwise. These are people who’ve basically seen the world turn upside down during their lifetimes, politically, socially, and technologically. Give a Gen Xer a firm, tangible reason to try your product or service, and you have a good chance of getting their attention.

Selling to Generation X B2B decision-makers is a unique challenge. Some Gen Xers identify more with the millennial generation, while others take their cues from their boomer parents. That’s why the key to converting Gen X decision-makers is adaptability. Recognize that each Gen Xer is a unique case, and respect their individuality. Combine that open-minded attitude with a valuable offer, and you’ll be well on your way to closing the deal.


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