Customers Know Too Much

John Bradley Jackson

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With the proliferation of the Internet along with blogs, wikis, social networks, and online communities, buyers today are making superior purchase decisions based on information that is now readily available. Gone are the good old days when buyers depended on their sales people to educate them about products and services. This new found purchasing sophistication applies to both B2B markets and B2C markets.

I remember a 2000 Time magazine cover story that forecasted the “death of sales careers” (or, at least a re-engineering of how products and services would be distributed in the new millennium). Well, it is 2007 and the article was half right: the Internet has changed the landscape of selling.

But, what was not forecasted was the increased information that buyers now have at their fingertips. Buyers can now quickly “Google” a product or service to determine pricing, specifications, and sources of supply; buyers are now very informed about current market conditions and about the alternatives (i. e. your competition). As negotiators, buyers are well armed.

So what are professional sales people to do? They need to become “partners” who provide tangible value in the sales and distribution process. To provide this value, sellers need to be expert at helping buyers make the right purchase decisions.

A downside to the availability of all this information for buyers is the shear volume of data itself. In this case, the rep can assist the buyer in sorting through the options. The same information can help the seller be more informed and better assist the buyer.

Additionally, sellers need to take on the behavior of a valued partner by suggesting alternatives, price decreases, or specification changes before they are needed. A true sales partner thinks about the customer’s long term interests by helping the customer achieve cost savings and ordering efficiencies.

Meanwhile, the old behavior of the stereotypical sales rep who was prone to fast talking, bluffing, fibbing, and lying by omission is no longer acceptable. Of course, it never was acceptable, but now you will assuredly get caught.

When all is said and done, the Internet, blogs, wikis, social networks, and online communities have created new tools for the enlightened seller to better serve the customer.

Long live the sales rep!

John Bradley Jackson brings street-savvy sales and marketing experience from Silicon Valley and Wall Street. His resume also includes entrepreneur, angel investor, corporate trainer, philanthropist, and consultant. His book is called “First, Best, or Different: What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Niche Marketing”.

Check out his website at: or his blog at


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