The Value of Teaching Your Customers vs. Selling to Your Customers

Before the internet, many sellers labored on an erroneous assumption that “the customer is always right.”  Professional salespeople knew this was not so, but the also-rans bought into the myth to their detriment. The internet brought new myths and slogans to exploit, a crowd favorite being “Information Parity.”  

The theory is that before the internet, we operated in a “world where there is information asymmetry. The seller always knew more, and the buyers had few choices and had little voice. The world of buyer beware. However, this asymmetry is being shifted. Much more power is now in the hands of the buyer. We are close to information parity.”  

This idea may have briefly held up in the closing months of the last millennium, but much beyond that.  

Yet many pundits still operate as though information parity exists. This perhaps explains the dreadful results B2B sales teams are delivering, COVID or no. “Sixty Percent of Forecasted Deals Do Not Close.” Nearly half of the reps do not attain quota and win rates are down.  

Clearly, something isn’t right. Salespeople can be less passive and do a better job selling. There is an argument to be made that buyers could do a better job buying. Something salespeople could do, but the pundits keep getting in the way.

Who Really Knows?

Pundits falsely tell unsuspecting salespeople that buyers are informed; more informed than the seller, warning them “seller beware.” Yeah, right? 

Sure, buyers have more access to information than ever, but are they accessing? Are they leveraging it to make more informed decisions, are they any smarter for it? I think you can guess my answer.  

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not insight. Value is usually derived from actionable insights. Take all the information you need; but in and of itself, the information does not lead to action. Yes, prospects have access to all the information they want… but are they accessing any of it?  

Those who try report that they are overwhelmed, like drinking from a firehose. Yet sellers, marketers, and content jockeys around the world continue to dole out information/content as though there was a shortage. 

Empowerment

Pundits have been hurting sales and salespeople by propagating a false reality of buyers who are informed and empowered.  

According to the Challenger guys at Gartner, “with a wealth of data on any solution, a raft of stakeholders involved in each purchase, and an ever-expanding array of options, more and more deals bog down or even halt altogether. Customers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralyzed than empowered.” (HBR April 2017)

Add this to the fact that many buyers are suspicious of the information they receive from vendors, both in terms of trust or adding value to their decision making. No doubt there is a lot of information available to buyers, but it is having the wrong impact.

Is it any surprise that buyers take much longer to make a purchase decision than in the past, and that more forecasted deals are ending in no decision? 

Selling Is Educating

When I suggest this to salespeople, they start thinking about how to teach their prospects why this is the best solution. This is a waste of time. The opportunity is to teach your buyers how to buy, evaluate,

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