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The Generational Cheat Sheet: Best Ways to Communicate with Each One

August 19 2019

fs generational cheat sheetWe live in an age of ever-changing ways to communicate: social media, email, text (SMS) and telephone. Which one is the preferred method for your clients? In an industry like real estate, it's vital to know the best way to communicate with your buyers, sellers, peers and just about everyone. What makes this fascinating is how communication styles can differ by generation.

Right now, there are six generations that comprise our society. Every one of these six generations plays a role in the real estate marketplace. And today we bring you the best ways to communicate with each generation. So keep this cheat sheet handy!

Here are the birth years for the six generations. These are our present and near-future home buyers!

Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials

Born: 1996-2012 | Ages: 7-23

Millenials, Gen Y, or Gen Next

Born: 1995-1977 | Ages: 24-42

Generation X, Gen X

Born: 1965-1976 | Ages: 43-54

Baby Boomers

Born: 1964-1946 | Ages: 55-73

Traditionalists or the Silent Generation

Born: 1925 -1945 | Ages: 74-94

The Greatest Generation

Born: 1910-1924 | Ages: 95-109

Note: Different studies may have different start or end dates. There are no standard definitions for when a generation begins and ends. Definitions may vary by geography. This is for the United States.

The Common Factor Among All Age Groups

One thing that stands universal among the participants interviewed for this article is that everyone wants to be spoken to in the same manner you would speak to your peer. How that looks is with full attention (you are listening to what they are saying without distraction), eye contact and respect.

Don't Judge

Everyone matters. Which means, no matter what the person's age, what they look like, how they are dressed, if they are married or single, whether you think they can afford the home or not, regardless of different political views, or any preconceived notions you may have, STOP. Be open and just listen to them.

Again, whether they are 19 or 95, don't look at them based on age. What one 99-year old said, "And if we can't hear you, just speak louder!"

On the light side

"Are you talkin' to me?" Remember where that famous line came from? Scroll to the end of the article to find out if you are right.

Let's Begin by Looking at What Defines a Generation:

A generation is a group of people born around the same time and raised around the same place. They encounter key historical events and social trends while occupying the same phase of life—whether that is childhood or adulthood. For example, the end of the Millennial generation and the start of Generation Z are closely tied with September 11, 2001. This is very different from the Boomer Generation, who came of age during an awakening of peace, love and youth rebellion.

Members of a generation tend to share common beliefs and behaviors. Each generation passes through an age bracket with its own memories, beliefs and life lessons. (Just turn your favorite radio station on and see what memories it stirs up for you.) Numerous researchers have demonstrated that most members of various generations identify themselves as a unique group from those outside their generation.

There are many different beliefs as to when a generation starts and ends. And you may also be part of a generation based on age and not feel aligned with it. Generational commonalities are not cut in stone and are only a reference to be used based on current culture and technology.

Top Communication Tips for Working with Each Generation

Gen Z / iGen / Centennials (Ages: 7-23)

Gen Zers are our near future homebuyers and game-changers. They are incredibly unique. Throw away those preconceived ideas that they only look at their phone and computer. Each one that I met disliked having conversations via text and used email as little as possible. Many are not even using social media except when necessary.

Based on interviews, what appears to be a commonality is:

  • They are self-starters, self-learners, and self-motivators.
  • They care about the environment and what is going on in the world.
  • They are well-versed in technology and many have a strong entrepreneurial mindset.
  • They respect, listen and value the advice of their parents, and they think for themselves.
  • They do not want to be judged.

Millennials / Gen Y / Gen Next (Ages: 24-42)

Millennials are the largest generation in America with over 75.4 million people, according to Pew Research. What that means for real estate is that they are the largest generation of homebuyers. They were brought up on technology. And they don't just use social media, they invented it.

  • Ask their preferred communication method. Many prefer texting. So set the digital expectations early, as they may want an immediate response.
  • Schedule your communications with them so as not to interfere with their work schedule.
  • Be brief and to the point when texting or speaking. Millennials have mastered the art of saying things in 280 characters or less. (I'm looking at you, Twitter!)
  • Show your expertise and communicate the value you provide. You must earn their loyalty and commitment.
  • Many Millennials care about the environment and are committed to social causes. Working with them to find or renovate a home using smart home technology and eco-friendly features is a big plus.

Generation X / Gen X (Ages: 43-54)

Generation X is sandwiched right between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. What has been found to be important to Gen X is to have a balance between work, family, and friends.

  • Gen Xers prefer online forms of communication.
  • Real estate agents should be prepared to answer questions that originate online. Many will wait until they are ready to buy to communicate with you.
  • Generation X is right behind the Millennials as the largest purchaser of real estate.
  • They have the highest student debt. Student debt has been a contributing factor as to why many have not purchased a home. And many were part of the housing bubble in 2008.
  • They are the largest generation with kids living at home. Ask questions, as many are holding off on selling their home and downsizing because their adult children are still living with them.

Baby Boomers (Ages: 55-73)

Baby Boomers were the first generation to be born right after World War II. The name came from the huge increase in births following the war. They are also the largest generation to be reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 per day.

  • Baby Boomers are the "show me" generation. They prefer face-to-face, open, direct and honest communication.
  • Many prefer a comprehensive and detailed analysis of what you, as their real estate agent, will do for them.
  • Many Baby Boomers are downsizing and purchasing homes for their kids.
  • Baby Boomers who are looking for a home may also want to annex or have separate living quarters for their aging parents.

Traditionalists (Ages: 74-94)

Traditionalists are also known as the Silent Generation. My mom is of this generation. She said it was about being seen and not heard. Coming out of the Great Depression, this generation focuses on capital preservation and safety when it comes to financial security. This generation grew up in a time of social and economic uncertainty. Many pride themselves as having had a single employer until the age of retirement.

  • The best way to communicate with this generation is through the telephone and face-to-face.
  • Direct mailings are also a great way to reach this generation.
  • This generation does use email as well.
  • Speak to them with respect, beginning with Mr. or Mrs., and be respectful of their age and experience in terms of life years.
  • Prepare your presentation thoroughly by being structured, logical and speak clearly.
  • It is important to be patient as they like to ask questions to make sure they fully understand everything.
  • Be their source for information and answers to help solve problems. This will help you earn their trust.
  • This generation does business largely through recommendations and referrals. Many times, it is their children who are shopping for a Realtor whom they can trust for their parents.

The Greatest Generation (Ages: 95-109)

When you have a client or family member that is celebrating 95-plus years, it is definitely a reason to celebrate. What defines this generation is that they grew up during the Great Depression and many fought during World War II. Some of the attributes that define this generation are personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith. It is the endurance of this generation that we can credit for much of the freedom we enjoy today.

One of the many honors of being in the real estate business is to be able to interact with this generation. What distinguishes the greatest generation is that many of them are the matriarch or patriarch of huge extended families. Several clients have sold and purchased real estate on their own at 95 years old. What is incredible is the clear mindset and determination that is bred into this generation.

  • With them, ask lots of questions. Many will enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience.
  • Face-to-face is the best form of communication. Phone (home or cellular) is second to make a face-to-face appointment or to answer questions.
  • Be the go-to source offering real estate information and market conditions.
  • Do right by them, and the love will be spread among the generations that are in close proximity to them. That means more business for you.
  • When necessary, keep in communication with a family member they trust, so you can keep them up to date on what is going on with the transaction.
  • Many will move into assisted living facilities when they can no longer care for themselves. Know the different ones available and offer information when necessary to their loved ones.
  • Send notes and cards.
  • Ask them how old they feel? The answer may surprise you.

Did you figure out the answer to the famous quote at the beginning of the article? "Are you talkin' to me?" It's from the movie Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro. This quote has been used in everyday life for decades, and I think and fits perfectly here.

Janice Zaltman is a Realtor, LEED AP, marketing coach and writer with more than 20 years of experience in the sales, marketing and media fields.

To view the original article, visit the Form Simplicity blog.