[Editor’s note: This is the second article in an eight-part series on selling to Baby Boomers.]

Unlike our parents who grew up during the hardships of the Great Depression and severe rationing of World War II, Baby Boomers were raised in a time of plenty. By the time we reached middle age, many Boomers have purchased more products and services than our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents combined. On our way to becoming mega-consumers, we were helped by caring salespeople who went out of their way to work in our best interest, and we were ripped-off by promise-anything, greedy-to-the-bone folks whose only interest was cashing their next commission check. Years of positive experiences and expensive lessons affect everything Boomers buy, especially when it is something unfamiliar or complex like a replacement comfort system.


Too many sincere salespeople lose sales because they don’t understand how the Boomer “rip-off prevention system” works.

The details of each inflated promise, misrepresentation and lie is filed away in our subconscious minds. The moment we meet you, an unconscious evaluation system springs into action to protect us from being taken advantage of or repeating past mistakes. Within two seconds of seeing you, we evaluate up to a dozen nonverbal clues.

This judgment process is so powerful, it can take another 4 minutes to add 50 percent more to our two-second impression. Our subconscious mind picks up the slightest details about your dress, posture, grooming and accessories then scans our memory’s hard drive trying to match elements from past good and bad experiences to what’s happening now. When a connection is found, an electrical circuit running to our emotional response center closes. A positive response can create a sense of well-being. A negative signal can stir feelings of fear or a sense of apprehension.


The more things we buy, the greater our chances of getting ripped-off. Every Baby Boomer’s rip-off-prevention system gets a little harder to penetrate every time a salesperson says or does something that creates a negative emotional response. Anytime a salesperson attempts to break down these defenses with phony flattery, verbal manipulation, or subtle pressure, our self-protection system goes into high alert. We start getting defensive, find it harder to listen and may even start disliking the salesperson.

Every time our subconscious filing card system finds a positive match, our guard drops a little, we listen harder, and start liking you a bit more. Each positive response increases our confidence in you. As our confidence goes up our stress level goes down, anxiety starts disappearing and apprehension is slowly replaced by a feeling of well-being.


“The deepest need in nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
- William James

Baby Boomers have been called self-centered, self-indulgent and self-absorbed. Many say we’re concerned with self-image, self-fulfillment and our own self interest. Whether true or not, the focus of every Boomer sale must be on the people buying, not the product you’re selling.


“Some people without brains do a lot of talking.”
- Wizard of Oz

Probably the most common past negative experience is salespeople who won’t shut up and let us talk. We discovered early in life it’s impossible for salespeople to learn anything about us when they’re talking. We also don’t care about all the keen things their product will do until we know they know what we want, why we want it, and if what they’re selling is what we really need in the first place.


“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say, I just watch what they do.”
- Andrew Carnegie

It’s impossible to have a high level of confidence in salespeople who won’t take notes. We know there is a 99.9 percent chance they won’t have total recall and can’t remember what we said. If they can’t remember, they won’t deliver. If you’re fortunate enough to have total recall, you still need to take notes. When you write down what we’re saying, you put us at ease, show you’re paying attention and prove you care.


“The rests are just as important as the notes.”
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

We have a desire to talk but are cautious of giving too much information to salespeople we’ve just met. It’s perfectly OK to draw us out with simple questions with phrases like, “I see …”, “Wow …”, “Then what happened …?” Nod your head to show you’re into what we’re saying. Give us time to tell you more by pausing a second to two after we finish speaking.

Let us use the natural silence created by note-taking to formulate our thoughts and feel comfortable giving you our personal information. The harder you listen, the more willing we are to give you special insight into my deepest wants, dreams, and desires.


Never miss an opportunity to let buyers sell themselves.

Once Boomers realize we won’t live forever, many of us try to do more in the time remaining. If we interrupt you in mid-sentence, we’re not trying to be being rude, we may just be in a hurry or want to make an important point before it slips our minds. Glance at our mouths while you’re “looking us in the eye” and watch our body language for clues we want to interrupt - leaning forward, slightly raising a hand, or mouthing silent words.


Every Boomer craves the confidence of knowing they’re buying the right product from the right person at the right price. After years of painful and expensive buying experience, Boomers have learned the most important element in the purchase of any product is the person selling it. As our confidence in you increases, price becomes less important, comparison shopping is less likely, and the odds of us buying the comfort system we’ve helped you design skyrockets.

Sidebar: Shhh, Listen

• The most important communication skill isn’t talking, it’s listening.

• Listening is the key to creating confidence and closing sales.

• The No. 1 reason Boomers don’t buy is the salesperson is talking instead of listening.

• The better you listen to us, the more we will act on your ideas.

• The most positive mental match is salespeople intently listening to what we have to say.

• Listening, not imitation, is the sincerest form of flattery.

- Dr. Joyce Brothers

Publication date:03/17/2008