Sales 2.0 has been lauded as giving the customer control of the sales process since they can now research their options and make purchase decisions long before ever speaking to a salesperson-IF they ever speak to a salesperson.
Much has been written about how this new buyer controlled process will destroy the sales industry since more and more purchasing decisions will be made without ever consulting a salesperson; how buyers will continue to demand access to more and more free, objective information; and how all of this information will make the purchasing process quicker, easier, and more efficient for buyers.
I suspect that all of the predictions will prove to be absolutely, totally, unquestioningly incorrect.
I'm willing to bet that there will be a huge increase in the number of professional, highly specialized sellers as a result of the avalanche of information made available to buyers.
I'm also willing to bet that the sheer amount of information available at one's fingertips will increase the complexity of the purchasing process for most goods-even relatively simple purchases.
Just two very quick examples:
My wife and I are in the process of a major home improvement project. We have ripped up perfectly good carpet from two rooms and perfectly good ceramic tile from three other rooms in order to put down a stone floor so we can cover it with more carpet in the form of rugs (what humans do sometimes makes no sense from a logical standpoint). In years past the selection of rugs for the foyer, den, dining room and kitchen would have been easy-we have a few stores in town that sell rugs and we'd make a selection from their inventory. In reality we'd select from maybe a few hundred rugs with a couple dozen being actual contenders.
Not now. Not with the internet.
My wife has spent weeks searching through literally thousands and thousands of rugs from hundreds of vendors from across the world. Her choices in terms of size, design, colors, and pattern are almost limitless. Whereas in the past she would have been satisfied to make a selection from a very manageable number of options, she is now virtually paralyzed in making a selection by the sheer number of options. More options mean more uncertainty.
To help make the right decision, she's brought in a design expert-a professional service provider who would never have been hired if not for the complexity of the decision created by the volume of choices the internet provides.
Further, the design expert says that Debbie is hardly her first new client she's acquired because of the increased design choices offered by the internet.
Such a simple thing-buying a few rugs-should only be a day's work. Instead, Debbie has invested hours and hours and hours over the course of weeks searching for rugs-and still had to bring in an expert to help make the decision.
But Debbie is far from the only one who has had to call in an expert and a simple consumer purchase is scarcely the only type of purchase the internet has complicated.
A manufacturing client of mine needed to acquire a phone system for a new office they were building. The office would open with about 25 employees but was scheduled to staff more than 100 within two years.
They had a committee assigned to do the research and make recommendations. Over the course of a couple of months much time and effort was spent researching options on the internet. In a relatively short period of time the committee had stacks and stacks of articles, brochures, and a massive amount of highly technical information. Certainly they had enough factual information to make a decision. However, it fairly quickly became obvious to the committee members that they needed an expert to help them wade through all of their options and make a well informed decision that maximized their current investment and gave them the flexibility for the anticipated quick and large expansion.
The result was another specialized seller was hired. The internet gave the committee members everything they needed to know, but it couldn't give them the background and experience to make the best decision on their own. They could, of course, called in a seller from every possible vendor, but even then they would need someone to help sort things out in order to make the best possible decision.
Now certainly it can be argued that these are simply two isolated incidents and don't represent the norm. It can also be argued that neither case involved a salesperson per se.
I don't think these are unusual cases in the least and I could give many more examples. Further, both of the experts hired are individual consultants, so they are very much salespeople.
I don't doubt that in many cases the flood of information provided by the internet will eliminate the need for engaging a salesperson. But I am also convinced that the very same flood of information is going to explode the need for highly specialized sellers to help consumers and businesses make sense of the enormous volume of options, technical information, and the inevitable conflicting opinions and advice buyers will be confronted with.
Information and options are good-knowing what to do with them is priceless.