One of the things salespeople worry about is their prospective client have information parity. They are concerned that their client will know as much or more than they do as it pertains to what they sell. One of the terrible lies perpetuated by pseudo-sales experts on sites like LinkedIn is that because buyers can research what they’re selling online, the buyer automatically has information parity, making the salesperson irrelevant.
Let’s look closer. First of all, if there is information parity, it’s not because the buyer has greater access to information. If this is true it is more likely that the salesperson doesn’t know enough to create a disparity. Second, it would be very difficult for the buyer to achieve information parity, especially by researching what it is they are buying.
The Value of Situational Knowledge
Let’s use an extreme example to make the case here. Let’s say you sell ERP solutions (Enterprise Resource Planning). There aren’t too many things more complicated to buy or to sell then ERP. Changing systems is the same as having a quadruple bypass, a brain surgery, a root canal, and a colonoscopy all at the same time. The person buying ERP software is likely to buy it one time over the course of their career. Maybe twice, but only under duress, the undertaking being overwhelming and disruptive to the business.
If you sell ERP solutions, you and your company will have the experience of helping hundreds or thousands of companies understand the decisions they need to make to successfully implement a solution like the one you sell. This is business acumen and situational knowledge.
Some Buyers Are Well Educated
It’s likely you are going to come across prospective clients who have purchased what you sell from for five different companies over the course of their career. They will be educated buyers, with strong ideas about what the right solution might look like for them and for their company. But that being true, they will have only considered the solution as it pertains to what they want and what they need. This means they will not have the context of other scenarios and other situations that cause other people and other companies to make different decisions.
Much of what you learn serving other people will remain unknown to your prospective client, once again providing you with the ability to offer them your advice, your insight, and your experiences that provide them with new and potentially better choices.
Let’s assume you’re working with an extremely educated buyer. They bought what you sell in a number of companies, tried a number of different things, and know quite a bit. It still likely that you have an advantage in the information available because you work in your industry, and you know the trends that are going to impact what your prospective client buys, why they buy, and what they should be preparing for as they look at your solution now. By keeping abreast of the changes going on in your industry, you are a subject matter expert, and that provides you with the ability to speak about the intersection of your business and your client’s, bridging the lack of knowledge about what is changing in your industry.
Information Is Not Advice, Nor Is It Wisdom
Despite what you might read and hear about your prospective client doing research, it isn’t likely that they’re going to very easily catch up when it comes to having the depth of understanding necessary to make the best choice. The analogy would be believing that someone could offer you medical advice by searching the WebMD to diagnose your symptoms and prescribe a treatment plan.
This being said, it is your job to maintain greater subject matter expertise at the intersection of your business and your prospective client’s business. This makes it your responsibility to read, to study, and to pay attention to how you and your company serve your clients. If your prospective client knows everything you know, they do not need you to advise them.
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Filed under: Business Acumen