A generation ago, sales people were repositories of information, and customers couldn’t make a purchase decision without consulting with sales people to find out more about the product. Sales people were gatekeepers of information, and in many ways, were in an advantageous position over the customer, because they had an “information asymmetry” in their favor – they knew more than the customer did.
Today, in almost all industries and sales situations, that dynamic has totally changed. Customers are better informed and armed with more data than ever before. Companies have had to adapt to a world of radical transparency in pricing, features, competitive advantage and more – your customers today likely know more than ever before and can do their own research to find out about your product before they even talk to a sales person.
So what does this mean for sales people? How can sales people continue to add value and build trust throughout the sales process? The role of the sales person has changed dramatically, but there is still a crucial role for sales people to play – but it requires understanding that the challenges facing customers have changed as well.
Customers have gone from having “too little” information to having “too much” information. Many people are feeling a sense of being overwhelmed by “information overload.” Perhaps you can relate to this feeling from your own everyday life as a consumer or in your career – every day we are bombarded by more information and messages and content than ever before; it’s like drinking from a fire hose.
So perhaps a successful strategy for sales people to adopt – in this new world of abundant information – is to help customers by reducing this sense of information overload, and building trust and enhancing your customer relationships along the way. Here are a few insights for how to accomplish this:
Serve as a Curator: Today’s customers are well informed and have access to great research tools and resources – but the challenge is, they might not know which resources are really the “right” ones. Sales people need to serve as curators and organizers of information. If your customers are interested in a certain solution or family of products, help point them in the right direction by recommending 3rd party product reviews or blogs that help illuminate the customer’s options. Send your B2B customers great content from around the web that relates to the latest trends in your industry – even if it’s unrelated to the specific solution that you sell. Serving as an industry peer who helps your customers get access to the best curated content and business intelligence will help to build trust.
Help Narrow the Customer’s Options: Customers often have a lot of preconceived notions about what type of solution they “think” they need, even if it’s not really the right fit. For complex B2B sales, the sales process is often becoming more a matter of helping your customers to narrow their options and evaluate the complex information that they are taking in.
Meet the Customer Where They Are: Anticipate higher-level questions and be ready for customers who are already farther along in the sales process. Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach – some customers might need the full introductory sales pitch, but most customers will have already done substantial research and will have strong opinions about what they need and how you can help. Be prepared to adapt your sales process to engage the customer on whatever stage of the customer journey they have reached, even if it does not fit into your standard sales process or your own preconceived notions about what customers need from you – don’t clog up the customer’s mental bandwidth with unnecessary information.
Customers today are better informed than ever before, and this creates new challenges and opportunities for sales people. But on the whole, it’s a positive development – as long as sales teams are prepared to adapt and meet customers with higher-level service and more sophisticated responses. By meeting customers as equals in the conversation – and by helping to avoid and remove unnecessary information and help narrow the customer’s options – sales people can add value in unprecedented ways.