Today is the 30th anniversary of the world wide web! Nothing has changed the sales profession more than this technology. As I reflect back over my 26 years in sales, allow me to offer some observations on how the internet has changed sales for good.
1. From Brochures to Insights
When I first started in sales, I carried around a milk crate full of product brochures. When I pulled up to an appointment I’d pull out a company folder and insert the appropriate brochure. In the pre-internet days, if you wanted information you needed to talk to a salesperson.
This made us lazy. We thought that we were brokers of information. In the process, we forgot that while we handed out information, what clients really wanted was insights. Today, we wonder why prospects don’t want to talk to sales reps until they absolutely have to. As a profession, we didn’t provide insight. So, once information became available at the click of a mouse, we got ignored.
Fortunately, buyer research presented in Insight Selling shows us that buyers actually do value insights. The sales reps stuck in the pre-internet dark ages moan and complain that nobody wants to talk to them until it’s time to buy. The sales professionals committed to adding value shine out like stars. They get involved earlier in deals, write the rules, and build tremendous competitive advantage. For more ideas on this see: Why Sales Reps Struggle To Get C-Level Attention — And What To Do About It.
2. From Mystery to Transparency
In Slow Down, Sell Faster, Kevin Davis says that sales professionals must become students of their prospects. They need to learn about their business and about them as people. Before the Internet, this was very challenging. Thanks to the Internet, sales professionals can do deep research quickly.
- Industry: Learn about the issues in the vertical markets you serve. (More on this in an article by me and our Fanatical Prospecting trainer, Lisa Dalton: Gaining New Inroads to Prospects Means You Have to Go Vertical)
- Prospect’s Business: Look for business problems and opportunities. Learn about strategic priorities. Follow their business on LinkedIn and Twitter. Go to their website. Learn about their mission. Download their annual report and K-1’s if they are publicly traded. Listen to their quarterly conference call. Check out data sources like D&B Hoovers Avention for insights on the company.
- Prospect: Discover what makes them tick. Follow your prospect on LinkedIn and Twitter. Find opportunities to interact through likes, comments, and retweets. Connect at the right time. Look for commonalities on their profile. While you’re at it, do a Google search and see what you find.
The internet has made it easy to find the signals we need to drive good conversations. It’s simply inexcusable (and stupid) for a sales rep to walk into a meeting without doing their homework online, yet it happens all the time.
3. From Face-to-Face to Digital Communication
Before the internet, we had three ways to prospect: door-to-door, phone, and snail mail. Today, we have multiple communication channels:
- Social media (E.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, Facebook)
- Messaging apps (E.g. SMS, Kik, Whisper, Snapchat, WhatsApp)
- Chat platforms (E.g. Skype, #slack)
- Video conferencing (E.g. Zoom, Go To Meeting, WebEx)
Make no mistake, the phone still works. Still, salespeople need to adapt how they interact with prospects and clients. In the prospecting stage, they need to integrate multiple channels to get the 6-8 touches needed to get attention. (At Convergo, we do this with sales sequences targeted at vertical markets combined with Fanatical Prospecting training.)
How Has The Internet Changed Your Sales World?
I’m sure there are many other ways the internet has changed your sales world. Share your thoughts in the comments below.