Internet vs The Salesman
In the past, buyers relied on vendors or salesmen to supply them with product information so that the buyer could then make an informed decision whether or not to purchase. Salespeople needed some flyers and a nice presentation, though they didn’t necessarily need to understand their product to sell it. They need some psychological knowledge of how to build customer rapport, but not much else. With the web, however, a potential customer can thoroughly research all product information, pricing, and customer reviews in the comfort of their own home and at any time of the day or night. They can compare products, warranties and prices online – even customer service reviews, resulting in an informed decision. This has driven prices downward as well, because most customers will purchase the lower-priced product since it’s so easy to locate now. They don’t want salespeople wasting their time trying to tell them what they’ve already learned in their web search. So has the vendor become obsolete?
Too much easily accessible information however, has led to a kind of buyer anxiety where too many choices make a purchase less likely. Many buyers are more apt to call an expert (salesperson) and turn the decision over to them. They desire the seller to “manage” the customer’s business and ensure that the product or solution purchased works well for the customer and creates measurable results. As a result, the vendor needs to know more about the product than ever before, right down to the buyer’s expected ROI.
Death of a Salesman, Rise of an Expert
Some markets have entirely lost the need for a salesperson. The airline industry sells nearly all tickets online. Computer parts are also predominantly sold online, with no need for a salesperson interface. Travel Agents still exist however, with the agents providing more complex services like luxury travel. And sellers of software and services have become more complex and expert in their sales strategies.
Traditional sales skills aren’t useless, but today’s buyers want to bring the salesperson into their business as consultants and advisers – so the new salesperson has to really understand the product and how it can work for the client, if a sale is to be made. He or she needs to have a solid understanding of today’s technology , blogging, social media, web conferencing, and how all of it will help your client’s business grow.
Selling in the Post Internet Age by Geoffrey James