[Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in an eight-part series on understanding Baby Boomers and how to sell to them.]

Thanks to the introduction of the Model T, the car that put America on wheels, Ford Motor Company controlled 60 percent of the new car market before World War I. As America entered World War II, Ford retained less than 20 percent market share. What happened? How could the company that sold the lowest price cars in the industry ($440 in 1915) lose two-thirds of a rapidly growing market in 23 years?

Henry Ford gave us the answer when he said, “People can have the Model T in any color, so long as it’s black.”

The next generation wanted more than a car that looked like every other one on the road. For the first time in history, buyers wanted more than transportation and were willing to pay serious money for colors, styles, and features that would satisfy both their logical and emotional needs.


Like snowflakes, no two Boomers are the same.

In the 18 years following World War II, the U.S. birth rate increased from 2 million to over 4 million per year. The average Boomer grew up with three siblings and sat in an overcrowded classroom with 35 other children.

To get our parents’ attention and be noticed by overworked teachers, we customized our attitudes to stand out from the competition. To get our friends’ attention, we customized our clothes, hairstyles and language to fit in with the right crowd. Customization is what made us who we were and how we were perceived by others.

Today, customization is so prevalent that it’s mathematically impossible to find two Boomers out of 78 million who use exactly the same combination of everyday products. Basic goods like toothpaste, shampoo, coffee, and breakfast cereal that consumers were lucky to find during WWII, now come in several dozen versions.

Our grandparents may have been the first to demand customization when they started buying automobiles, but Boomers were the first to make it the foundation of a mega-consumption lifestyle.


Baby Boomers most precious resource is time. Boomers are in a hurry. We don’t want to wait to solve a problem especially if it has anything to do with our physical, emotional or financial comfort.

After making thousands of buying decisions over many years, we’ve learned to make smart decisions in a short time by focusing 100 percent of our attention on the problem at hand.

“Selective focus” happens subconsciously in a split second for impulse buys or could take an hour or more for a complex purchase like a replacement comfort system.

The more customized your solution, the less we need to focus and the more likely we are to buy now. If we don’t buy today, we’ll be focused on a different problem tomorrow. Without customization, the chances of making an immediate sale are about the same as finding wholesome food in a bus station vending machine.


Customization is the only way Boomers get exactly what we want. It saves time and makes you money. A McGraw-Hill research study found the average face-to-face sales call costs over $250. If most sales in your firm could be made in one appointment instead of two, how much more time, frustration, and money would you save?

Unlike a limited choice sales process like “good-better-best” where buyers typically don’t get something they do want or end up paying for something they don’t want, customization gives buyers only the benefits they desire. Customization determines benefits, benefits determine value, and value determines how much buyers are willing to pay.

Customization skyrockets satisfaction. Satisfied customers are the ones who’ll do business with you again and recommend you to their friends. The greater the happiness and the more extraordinary the solution, the more Boomers will talk to their friends and try to get them excited about buying something similar from you.


When Boomers get exactly what we want, it’s hard for us to raise legitimate objections. Once we understand we can only get your one-of-a-kind solution from you, comparison shopping doesn’t make sense. When our priorities are included in your customized package, price goes from a potential detail to a less significant detail. When you don’t include things we don’t want, one of the biggest reasons to “think about it” has been eliminated.

By showing how customized comfort reduces a generation of energy bills, you’ve given us one more powerful reason to find the money to buy it now.


Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Their tastes are not the same.
- George Bernard Shaw

According to a Burger King advertisement, there are 221,184 possible ways for a customer to order a Whopper® sandwich. If there are that many ways to customize a hamburger with bread, meat, cheese and condiments, how many ways are there to customize a replacement comfort system?

Residential outdoor unit sizes: 7+
Outdoor unit energy-saving options (SEER): 6+
Residential furnace sizes: 6+
Furnace fan options: 2+
Furnace energy-saving options (AFUE): 2+
Air purification options: 3+
Thermostat options: 3+
Financing options: 3+
The answer is 10,518,300.

Most Boomers would love to buy a replacement comfort system over the phone or through the Internet. We’d save time, eliminate a huge hassle, and wouldn’t have to spent time with a salesperson. Unfortunately, this approach is like asking a doctor to diagnose a critical illness over the phone. Besides seeing every situation first-hand, you need to use a sales process that helps you rapidly sort through 10 million options and come up with the combination that best meets each buyer’s needs.


Selling customized comfort is like moving a rope, you can either push or let the buyer pull.

The three actions to take in order to make the sale are:

1.Ask questions to determine intentions, desires and priorities.

2.Observe customers, home, comfort system and furnishings.

3.Customize a system that best meets everyone’s needs.

The behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “People have a burning passion to be better off today than yesterday, and better tomorrow than today.” Customization is how Boomers make it happen.

Publication date:05/05/2008