The day of the fast-talking, door knocking, drink buying, salesperson are quickly approaching their end. Old-fashioned 20th-century methods of selling are being made obsolete by the consumer’s access to information. People don’t want to be sold—they want to be advised.

Consumers no longer need a salesperson to sell them on a product when they can find out what they need to know online. Companies that hold onto outdated titles and tactics will be left behind.

Consumers check you out online before they contact you

In an article, and infographic, posted in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette they found the majority of consumer’s vetted businesses online before contacting them.

  • 97% of consumers searched online for products and services before contacting providers
  • 70% Compared prices and read reviews
  • 88% Were influenced by reviews

Whether B2B or B2C prospects can find the answers to their questions and solutions to their problems online, and if they can’t find them on your website—they’ll move on to the next. Salespeople are needed less to educate than to advise. To offer good advice representatives need to become consultants, which begins by understanding the customer’s problems and recommending the best solutions for their needs.

People don’t have time

In the 1980’s I managed a home remodeling sales team that spent, on average, three hours at consumers’ homes. Although this was an award winning team, can you imagine spending three hours with any salesperson? Today, most people don’t have that kind of time, and they don’t need a complete product demonstration and education. For example, our 50” TV at home went out. My wife got online, read reviews about brands and models, choose one, and then priced it. We picked a local retailer not because they were the lowest price but because they offered the service we wanted. We were 90% done before we walked in the door.

If you’re a B2B and you think this doesn’t hold true for you, think again. In a 2012 Harvard Business Review study The end of solution sales they shared this, “In fact, a recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier. “  This study may be four years old, but I doubt the numbers have gone down.

People want to collaborate not negotiate

Consumers, whether B2B, B2C, or not-for-profit don’t want to be sold. Most people don’t want a product forced down their throat so a price negotiation can begin. More often than not, people want to work together towards mutual benefit. They want partners, not salespeople.

If you’re stuck in the 20th century where does change begin?

It starts with titles. That may sound funny, but what someone is called has much to do with how they see themselves and how others categorize them. Eliminate Salesperson as a title and depending on your business replace it with Consultant, Business Development Manager, Technical Representative, or Product Adviser.

The next step is to teach the consultants to…consult. They must understand the majority of prospects have done their homework, or they wouldn’t be talking with you. Find out what problems they have and how they believe your product and service will serve them.

Adapt or be eaten

Adapting to the current business climate can be the life or death or your business. Understanding and meeting the needs of your target audience is the key to successful consulting. It’s not the other way around. The world is changing fast, and those who don’t adapt will be swallowed up. “In the past, business success was all about size: The large eat the small. Today, business success is all about speed: The fast eat the slow.” — Huffington Post, Daniel Burris: Profiting from the speed of business.  Are you going to eat or be eaten?