Customers as we know them—or as we think we know them have evolved through the years. They are more critical, they have more choices, and they ask more questions. They can smell a sales pitch from a mile away and move away instinctively. They are likely well armed to stop a salesperson in his tracks with some smart questions. This is the era of the informed, enlightened customer.
This new normal—customers who are both more demanding and more informed—presents professional salespeople with a new set of challenges. Many companies and thought leaders have responded to this dynamic with all sorts of tactics and tools that, ultimately, serve to automate the salesperson.
Specifically, they talk about developing proven pitches and then using these pitches to get scale fast, with the idea being that certain customer sets have the exact same problems (a rather blatant overgeneralization of the customer as well). This approach puts the sales executive at the end of the value chain and forces them into a role that is confined to communicating packaged messages (selecting the right story or case study to highlight when given the proper cue, for instance).
This is not at all what customers want. Customers value perspective from the people they work with. They want substantial answers when they ask, “What do you think? What do you know? What is your experience? How does it compare?” The fact remains that customers still look for real people they can talk to who can provide them with perspective on the pros and cons of the sale to make a well-thought-out buying decision, and they expect the same personal service post-sale. That is something they cannot get on the Internet, and they know it. Customers today demand more from salespeople than canned sales scripts and auto-responses to common questions.