News & Research Archive

Doing Business with Today's Generation

Mar 24, 2013


I was recently asked to teach at both a law school real estate class and an undergraduate class – bringing me back to my former universities after graduating over thirty years ago. When I was in school I enjoyed the constant interaction and discussions that occurred between my teachers and peers. The questions posed by our teachers would lead to exchanges that taught us to express ourselves and build foundations for our arguments and opinions.

My recent experience teaching was completely different from what I remember of my college years. When I arrived on campus I asked the teachers how many students would be in attendance: The first said to expect ten of twenty students, the second said to expect twenty out of thirty-three. Aside from the shockingly low attendance numbers, a large number of students showed up for my lecture twenty minutes late. In both classes I taught there was almost no interaction on the student's part – it was as if they were in a catatonic state. I did everything I could to get them to engage, posing specific questions to an individual student only to get a two or three word answer in return. Yet, at the end of each class, many of the students approached me to say thanks and tell me how much they got out of the class. Both teachers said I was great and asked me back so back I went. I was taken aback by the praise and enthusiasm until I realized that the generation I grew up in is different in so many ways to how young adults now are not only educated but also brought up and taught to communicate.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's with three siblings and a French-speaking grandmother in the house, I was always in communication mode and all of my family was as well. After a lively and chatty dinner with all the family around the table, I would lay in front of the television with my siblings while we finished our homework and settled down for the evening. Looking back, it seems that television was the beginning of the end of face-to-face communication between people and the start of our path to communicating more through devices. It all started to make sense why I didn't feel that I was connecting with the college students – they have all been raised as a generation that communicates heavily through virtual communication. Texting, emailing and social networking has become the norm for conversation and interaction between the younger generation. While some may perceive this to be a dumbing down in communication I personally believe the movement is backed by individuals who are highly intelligent but have simply not been taught how to relate to others face-to-face, my college class was a perfect example of this.

As salespeople today we are far more comfortable communicating via email than over the phone. We send short, clipped messages in a hurry, forgetting the art of a thoughtful conversation or a well-composed letter. Our challenge now is to figure out how to succeed in selling our services to a target market that seems to have ADD – with little time read or focus when spoken to. As well as communication barriers, generational discrepancies often times get in the way; the younger generation no longer gives its elders the benefit of the doubt when it comes to respecting our experience – they think they know it all already.

True sales and service has been compromised by immediacy and lack of interaction between people. Welcome to the biggest challenge facing salespeople: How to stay relevant.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 28 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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