In 1992, I was diagnosed with an arteriovenus malformation at the back of my right temporal lobe. That’s a fancy way of saying that I had a group of arteries and veins that had grown into a giant, tangled knot. The diagnosis meant that I was going to have to have the arteriovenus malformation removed—along with the part of the brain that had been bruised (picture above, you can see what’s missing!)
I talked to a number of neurosurgeons before choosing the surgeon that eventually completed the surgeries. I read everything I could get my hands. I had a lot of information. What I wanted was someone with a lot of experience in removing arteriovenus malformations, and someone I trusted to do so.
Serious decisions require a lot of information. They also require a lot more than information.
The New Buying
It is undoubtedly true that buyers have more access to more information than at any time in the history of sales. It is equally true that they are sometimes working through phases of the buying process on their own. They are doing more to identify what they believe are their needs, and they are doing some evaluating of what they believe to be the options available to them.
Buyers are, in short, gathering a lot of information.
But information isn’t all that you need to choose a partner. It takes more than information to make a good decision. It takes way more than information to produce great business results, and anybody that has successfully undertaken a serious change initiative will attest to that fact.
Those describing the death of sales due to the simple availability of information are premature in their assessment.
The Experience Factor
Information alone does not a subject matter expert make!
I still have the charts showing where the AVM I described was located on my brain. I have a lot of other interesting information about AVM’s. And so do a whole bunch of neurosurgeons and doctors.
I chose a doctor that had completed thousands of the operations that I needed. I didn’t need information—I needed someone with tens of thousands of hours of experience to help me make a number of seriously important decisions—and to perform the surgery.
When I asked him what I might expect in the way of problems after the surgery, he was completely honest and forthright, telling me that he didn’t know. I might have liked a lie better, but when someone is going to cut your skull open and remove a piece of your brain, you weight the decision very heavily on trust.
Buyers are no different. The decisions that they are required to make aren’t insignificant either–even if they aren’t brain surgery.
The information in the buyer’s hands isn’t as valuable as it is in the hands of someone who has the experience and the situational knowledge to know how to help apply that information to their problems, challenges, and opportunities. Without the experience and the situational knowledge that comes from having built, implemented, and executed solutions for hundreds of clients, the information isn’t enough; it lacks the context and meaning that only experience can bring.
Salespeople with the business acumen and the experience to help create value are going to continue to be necessary because they possess these things. With all that may have changed in buying, this hasn’t changed. And it isn’t changing anytime soon.
The Squeeze: Limited Time and Resources
There are surely some people in purchasing and buying units with time to really study and understand what they buy. I know some of them. Even with all they know, they rely on salespeople to help them get the results that their company’s need. They don’t have the time or resources to do otherwise, even if they wanted to.
Most buyers, both now and in the future, will have absolutely no interest in being a subject matter expert in everything that they purchase.
Your buyers don’t make or sell what you sell. While you are surely part of their value chain, they don’t want or need to know your business like you do; that is the value that you bring as a salesperson. Your client wants a good partner so they don’t have to spend their time trying to become a subject matter expert on what it is you sell.
Your dream clients don’t have the time or the resources to dedicate to learning what they would need to know, and they don’t need the depth of knowledge of a great salesperson to choose a good partner.
There are lots of things about buying that have changed, but the squeeze on your dream client’s time and resources surely hasn’t changed in any way that suggest that they have more of either. If you want to be the value creator that your dream client needs to help them with something serious—like their business results—then develop your business acumen and develop your situational knowledge. Develop yourself into the subject matter expert that your dream client can count on to help them interpret the information based on experience and to develop the right solution.
What has changed about the way your buyers buy?
What hasn’t changed?
What do the changes mean you need to change about your sales process in order to create value for your buyer at every stage of their process?
What doesn’t need to change about your process? What are the universals that will always be true?