By Jeff Beals
“Previous generations feared a population explosion. But for today’s global economy, the problem is just the opposite. Falling fertility rates and aging work forces will plague the developed world.”
That quote came from a recent series of articles in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Demographic Destiny 2050,” which examined the sweeping changes affecting how people will live and work in the next few decades.
The wave of demographic change is already upon us and it’s building momentum. It will have a profound effect on how each of us does our jobs and how we operate businesses.
According to the series, next year will be the first time since 1950 that the combined working age of the world’s advanced economies will decline. It will drop even more by 2050. Meanwhile, the portion of the population over age 65 will skyrocket.
Why is this demographic change occurring? Longer lifespans and declining fertility.
All of this leads to two problems that both put downward pressure on economic growth: not enough skilled workers are available to fill the most needed jobs; and the number of customers is declining.
The total population will still increase thanks to greater longevity, but as the population grows older, customers may actually become scarcer. An older population tends to save and invest more money rather than spending it on houses, cars and consumer goods. Young adults with children spend a lot more on “stuff” than old people do. The things older people do purchase are more likely to be services including health care.
As employees become scarce, customers grow older and population growth stagnates, we could see a number of manifestations:
- Both manufacturing and service-based jobs are going to become increasingly automated. Will we someday have fast-food restaurants staffed by robots? If so, there’s a higher likelihood your order will be processed accurately but what if the “chef” gets a computer virus?!!?
- An older population will become more affluent, so the market for higher-end goods and services could grow. Affluent people (both young and old) are showing more interest in experiences rather than material objects. Memories of a great experience last a lifetime while material objects are eventually thrown away.
- Workers will be older in the next few decades. One of the articles in the Wall Street Journal series highlighted a senior citizen in Japan who works in a physically demanding job. He is able to lift as much as a man half his age thanks to a special device that supports his back and electronically monitors his muscle movements. Moving forward, there will be a lot of money to be made selling products that help people work into their golden years.
What impacts will the demographic changes have on sales leaders and their staffs?
- It will be more important than ever to determine exactly what your customer values and exactly what problems they need solved. The successful seller will be the one who provides the exact solution as quickly as possible.
- We must be prepared to deal with increasingly diverse customers and not just racial/ethnic diversity. Your customers will be older in the future. They might not have the same professional backgrounds that your typical customers have now thanks to a wide-ranging and fast-changing economy. Additionally, more companies will find themselves doing business internationally than was traditionally the case.
- Sales cycles will continue to speed up. The demographic wave coupled with galloping technological advances will cause customers to expect answers quickly and products/services fulfilled immediately.
There’s pretty much nothing we can do to stop the demographic wave. Some countries are trying by financially incentivizing people to have kids. China even rolled back its decades-old “one child” rule, but all of that does not seem to be making much of a dent.
There appears to be a direct relationship between affluence/education and lower fertility/longer lives. Meanwhile, technology advances rapidly.
It can be stressful, but there is much opportunity in a changing economy. We just need to keep our eyes and our minds perpetually open.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker, sales consultant and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at email@example.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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