Don Draper Would Strike Out With Millennials

Don Draper, the pitching maestro at the center of AMC’s acclaimed Mad Men, is often revered by sales professionals: They remember his charm, his winning smile, the Carousel pitch. They tend not to remember his personal and business failures or generally the show’s vision of ’60s culture, a simpler time.

The truth is that any admiration for the vision of salesmanship at the heart of Mad Men is deeply misguided: It didn't always work in the show itself, after all, and it wouldn't work today. The consumers of 2016 and beyond are a different breed entirely. Millennials aren't going to be distracted by glittering baubles and fancy lunches; they want products that speak to them and improve their lives. Advertising has been promising these things for decades, but these promises have seldom translated to reality.

Out With the Old…

Don Draper is alluring because he's handsome, he's confident, and he always wins the big pitch—either in the client meeting, or later on during a protracted liquid lunch. But it is all built on an inverted pyramid of lies.

For better or worse, the character is always winging it. He takes the "Don Draper" identity from his dead commanding officer; he gets employed by Sterling Cooper because he got his boss drunk; in one episode, he even seduces a client’s wife in a bid to retain the account.

In the hyper-connected, always-on, and manically competitive markets of modern times, this "get 'em drunk and hope for the best" approach wouldn't fly. Technology empowers consumers to make rational, informed decisions quickly—and it empowers companies (and their competitors) to formulate sales strategies based on reality.

By 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials, so the companies that succeed going forward will the ones that take advantage of it.


One of the biggest challenges facing any sales professional working today is time management. They've got to accentuate those positive activities that result in new business and increased revenue—and eliminate those negative activities that don't.

However, latching on to the affirmative isn’t always easy: Getting bogged down in time-consuming tasks is often unavoidable and to the detriment of any efforts to win over new business. Every customer wants to feel like they’re special, but the reality is that they’re one of several hundred things the average salesperson has to deal with on a daily basis. To satisfy customers during a big meeting or client call, reps will have to either expend more time beforehand in research and preparation (inevitably at a cost to something else) or simply wing it and hope for the best.

Software offering automated, zero-click data capture and activity tracking provides a way to handily solve this problem. Technology that stores pertinent information, attaches it to customer records, and proactively analyses it to uncover relationship intelligence gives the salesperson everything they need to close the deal.  They won’t have to fake it or improvise: All the data they need is a click away, giving them the time to focus on building and maintaining those all-important relationships.

Appreciating the Sentiment

CRM technology has made some significant advances in the past few years. While it still facilitates the gathering and sorting of data, it's more effective, more efficient, and more intelligent than ever.

In season four of Mad Men, Roger Sterling is blindsided by Lucky Strike's sudden decision not to renew the agency's contract. It's disastrous for the company, and it's also true to life. When a customer lets a business know they've gone off a service, it's often too late to do anything about it.

Modern, sophisticated, and responsive sales solutions that factor in prospect engagement, customer behavior, and sentiment data can easily identify these issues before they develop into serious, revenue-damaging problems. The right software highlights patterns and trends within communication with the brand; if they're unhappy, the salesperson has an opportunity to nip any trouble in the bud; if they're pleased, they have a chance to reinforce the foundations of the relationship. This is a huge advance on the old process-and-transaction-driven technologies of the last decade.

Taking the Initiative

These days, if a client wants something from a company, the company's botching things. The aim shouldn’t ever be to satisfy customers; it should be to anticipate their needs and take care of them before they’re even aware they have a need. The less a business arrangement feels like work, the longer it will last.

The right tools offer the ability to predict a customer's needs and supply an appropriate solution in an instant. Using the aforementioned historical data, it is possible, over time, to gain a sense of both a customer's overall preferences and the way they will act in the future. Are they more responsive to calls or emails? Do they like to be contacted before, during, or after work? Whatever the trends and habits, such software will alert the relevant salesperson—and suggest the most sensible course of action. This reinforces sales on both the strategic and tactical levels with insights based on bona fide evidence.

Evidence, initiative, and comprehensive knowledge are things Millennials have not only come to expect, but demand. Any sales professional that falters in any of these areas is on the fast track to failure and disappointment. In season three of Mad Men, a character, displeased with the work produced, sums up his attitude: “When I want the moon, I expect the moon.”

For all his magnetism and pitching prowess, Don Draper couldn’t give it to him. The modern salesperson can.

In his role as international managing director of Bullhorn, Peter Linas oversees international operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific and Japan (APAC). Linas joined Bullhorn in 2009 and was responsible for its highly successful U.K. launch. Linas has expanded Bullhorn’s reach into EMEA and APAC and achieved a user base of more than 10,000 international users. Prior to taking on the launch of Bullhorn in the U.K., Peter spent 20 years working in the recruitment industry and held a number of senior director roles before moving into the technology space.

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