Your Customers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know


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While we are firmly entrenched in the era of customer power, that does not mean that customer’s don’t need help and guidance.

Information is everywhere.

On the one hand, this means that customers can easily find detailed information, reviews, and recommendations on a wide range of topics without a lot of effort. They no longer need to rely on marketing or sales people to educate them about specific products and services.

On the other hand, it is next to impossible to know if you are researching the right things or finding the right information. Do others feel like I do and wonder, almost on a daily basis, if they are missing something important? You leave your desk for 30 minutes and wonder how much you missed on Twitter, in your blog readers, etc.

And that is the opportunity for sales in the era of customer power. Rather than spending your time with traditional activities, it is time to shift the focus. If you could become the customer’s guide as they wade through a morass of information—some clear, some confusing, some hidden from view—you, and your company, will be highly valued.

How do you do this? It is not that hard. In fact, it echoes many of the ideas of the Sales Executive Council’s and those of other sales leaders like Dave Brock, whose blogs we feature here. And, it is not that different from the past).

  • Uncover a need/opportunity that the customer may not know they have
  • Present compelling evidence from a variety of sources , not just your company, about this issue and the potential value of addressing it
  • Guide the customer through their buying journey, helping them find and assemble the right type of information to get buy-in, refute objections, and make progress
  • Link the need to your company’s solutions to provide a compelling reason to buy from you (versus others)

For some, this is business as usual. But for many, it requires a different way of thinking—one that is more customer centric than product centric. It also means that your qualification approach may need to change. How does someone budget for something they don’t understand? If budget exists, can you shift the opportunity using the same technique to put yourself in a better position.

While information is everywhere, that is not necessarily a good thing, unless your customers find the information they need. Sales Reps that shift their behavior to act as expert guides for their customers will be invaluable. Customers will go from feeling overwhelmed and uncertain to being confident and informed. Their business will come with that.

Remember, your customers don’t know what they don’t know.

Unless you tell them.

Hank Barnes
Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies--particularly around marketing, positioning, and customer experience--for technology providers. Hank has more than 25 years of high-technology sales and marketing experience in both field and corporate roles, both as an individual contributor and the marketing leader for several startups. He is a long-time proponent of customer-centric marketing and the use of customer experience as a key differentiator for business success. His posts here include content from his days with Adobe, SAP, and now Gartner


  1. Great post Hank! We struggle with creating value for our customers and differentiating ourselves. Helping our customers undertand new opportunities, identifying and removing complexity, helping improve their businesses are at the center of creating value.

    What’s even better, is so few sales people do this that those who do immediately rise to the top in the minds of their customers!


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