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How salespeople deal with intergenerational relationship selling

Ellen Bolman Pullins (The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Michael L. Mallin (The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Richard E. Buehrer (The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Deirdre E. Jones (The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




The Millennial generation (born after 1981) of salespeople is projected to become the apparent heir to replace top‐end Baby Boomers expected to retire at an alarming rate over the next five years. This problem poses a significant challenge in that buyer‐seller relationships will need to form between members of different generations.


Through a grounded theory style approach, the paper explores this intergenerational selling relationship development problem.


In addition to confirming that Millennial salespeople feel challenged by differences stemming from their age‐group, several strategies were identified for Millennial salespeople to overcome these challenges and effectively build relationships with their (older) customers.

Research limitations/implications

The study is qualitative and based on a limited convenience sample, but reveals the need to further pursue study in this area.

Practical implications

Managers can help younger salespeople develop strategies for managing older buyers. These strategies are establishing similarities, building credibility, showing dependability, demonstrating professionalism, and showing youthful enthusiasm.


The paper helps resolve the issue of whether understanding generational differences is important. Statistics show that increasingly younger salespeople will call on older buyers. The paper establishes that this is consistent with discrimination, SIT theory, rather than earlier work on similarities.



Bolman Pullins, E., Mallin, M.L., Buehrer, R.E. and Jones, D.E. (2011), "How salespeople deal with intergenerational relationship selling", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 443-455.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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