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Selling to millennials

Bryce Sanders

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What you need to know about reaching this critical market.

MILLENNIALS, the segment of the population born between 1981 to 1996, are a huge market that financial professionals must engage. But how do you proceed?

Much of what we know about millennials is anecdotal or comes from behavior we’ve observed firsthand. Previous generations were alive during the Great Depression or are children of parents who had the experience. They tend to not throw anything away that might still be useful. Conversely, millennials don’t have this tendency. If they no longer want or use something, they either throw it away or give it away.

Millennials generally don’t have a lot of savings because of the one-two punch of lower incomes and higher housing costs. To make life better, they buy affordable luxuries. They shop at organic grocery stores. They frequent Starbucks.

Getting started

  • Millennials do research. Today, almost everyone researches companies, products and people online before making a purchase. How can a local person find you? What will they see when they do an internet search? If they’ve already met you and then check you out online, what will they learn?
  • Social media. Millennials spend about 85% of their time connected. As a financial professional, you need a social media presence. It needs to be better than competitors who are just going through the motions. Your approach also must be in compliance with firm rules.
  • Referrals. Sites like TripAdvisor and HomeAdvisor provide feedback from users who are previous customers. For financial services, it’s likely millennials will ask their friends: “Who do you know ...” Can your friends and clients spot an opportunity?
  • Connect on their terms. Industry veterans remember when the two primary channels were letters and phone calls. Many millennials have ditched phone calls in favor of texting. Others prefer email. You must engage with your prospects through their preferred channel, consistent with firm rules.
  • Old school works. Engaging with prospects by email, texting and social media gets you on the radar, but people still want to meet face to face before handing over big money or making a serious commitment. They want to walk into your big building, meet in your office and confirm you actually work there.
  • Millennials like experiences. How many times have you heard that? Your firm is involved in the community. You might sponsor exhibitions at the museum. Maybe you have seats at the sports stadium. You might hold client-recognition events. These are experiences, binding clients closer to the firm and cultivating prospects.
  • How does your firm give back? Millennials are environmentally conscious. They often believe in community involvement. They support charities. Your firm has deeper pockets than you do. What does the firm do in these areas? This is an opportunity to sell the firm and demonstrate that it’s doing its part to make the world a better place.

What do millennials need?

  • Retirement savings. Annuities are sometimes called personal pensions. It’s a tax-deferred vehicle that’s a good fit when millennials have maxed out their 401(k) contributions. Since many millennials think they are behind on retirement saving, you are talking their language.
  • Whole life insurance. Every generation has found it tough to save. Millennials often have young families. They are financially stretched. They need a product with a twofold solution. They need a lump sum to support their family and pay down debt if they die. They also need a savings vehicle that builds accumulated cash value over time, growing in a tax-deferred environment.
  • Consolidation. Everyone wants to simplify their lives. If the average millennial changes jobs four times in the decade after college, they likely have retirement assets accumulated at each firm (unless the job changes were internal promotions). Gathering these assets into a rollover account makes good sense.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for financial services professionals, and is the author of “Captivating the Wealthy Investor.” Contact him at


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