“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Just a few short years ago, this old adage served as the mantra for many very successful salespeople. Relationships formed the cornerstone of the sales process, and with enough charm and personal energy, the best salespeople could ‘sell ice to an Inuit.’
Fast forward to today, when your average Inuit can quickly check real-time ice prices on their phone, search the web for ice inventory data in their local area, and order their favorite brand of ice to be delivered right to their door in a matter of hours. In this modern environment, vim and vigor will only take a salesperson so far against the incoming tide of readily available competitive data.
According to research on the changing nature of the sales process by Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson of The Corporate Executive Board (The Challenger Sale, Dixon & Adamson, 2011), customers used to raise their hands as potential buyers about 30% of the way through the sales process. At that point in time, a company had the opportunity to shape the purchasing criteria through their relationship marketing and sales efforts.
However, in the current environment, where customers have access to a wealth of information from a variety of sources, they don’t need to reach out to you in order to help them make a decision. In fact, by the time that you even know someone is interested in your products or services, they are likely closer to 60% of the way through the decision-making process. That means they have already done their initial research, selected the criteria that is most important to them, set their expectations, and found several vendors that at least meet their minimum required level of service.