The Salesperson Expert versus the Web-Educated Buyer

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Sales Strategies  |  New Rules of Sales & Service  |  Best Practices

Audi dealerPrior to the ability for consumers to research products, services, people, and companies on the web and social media, salespeople needed to be the expert. The buyer didn’t have the ability to go online and conduct independent research; an important aspect of the sales process was the buyer’s education by the seller.

Now, your salespeople should assume that they are the last place a buyer goes, not the first. They must assume that very little of their knowledge is proprietary.


Facilitate the sale, don’t control the information

To illustrate the point about how salespeople used to hold the power position when they were keepers of information, think about the process of buying a car in 1990. You’d be exposed to television and magazine ads. Perhaps you’d purchase a buyers’ guide such as Consumer Reports. You could ask friends and coworkers for advice. But to get detailed information on models, options, and pricing required a dreaded visit to the dealership to talk to the salesperson, who was smugly aware he had all the information power.

Today, how do you buy a car? Do you blindly go to visit the dealership to ask the salesperson? Or do you spend hours on the web learning as much as you can and only visit the dealer when you are ready to buy and already know everything you need to get a good deal?

Remarkably, many companies are still operating in a world as if the salesperson is the king of the information kingdom. Companies insist on driving all online interactions to a salesperson.

Make your content free

One manifestation of this behavior is the insistence by most companies that buyers supply personal details—particularly an email address—before they can get information such as a white paper. When I question marketers about this practice, they tell me that they need sales leads and that salespeople follow up on the information requests.

This is far less effective than making information freely available to be downloaded and shared. And it risks losing potential customers who are wary of providing their email address out of fear that it will be recycled and sold to data brokers and spammers.

The idea that you shouldn’t give information for free predates the web. Requiring an email registration is simply applying what we did in the past to the new realities. There is a new lead generation calculus.

Are you managing your sales and marketing process using 1995 calculus? Do you assume that salespeople are the fonts of all knowledge and all information flows through them? If so, I think you are less successful than you could be.

Photo: David Meerman Scott

New Call-to-action