In Daniel Pink's new book, To Sell is Human, Pink talks about information asymmetry in the sales process. He points out that the reason people have historically distrusted salespeople is because salespeople had all the information and the buyer had none. That explains the popularity of the term caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
Pink contends that we are now in the age of information symmetry. In this age, the buyer and seller both have a balance of information. However, I contend that we are in a state of information asymmetry, in which the buyer now has more information than the seller. In fact, the asymmetry has become so significant that the ability of the sales rep to do their job is greatly at risk.
That is why I argue that social selling is required to succeed. And when I talk about social selling, I’m talking in much broader terms than making sure that you’re connected to someone on LinkedIn or are following someone on Twitter.
I am talking about arming the sales rep with the same or better information than the buyer has. And I contend that the responsibility of arming the sales rep falls in marketing’s lap. It’s the CMO that owns the responsibility for providing the sales reps with better information than the buyer has.
We understand that the buyer gathers information from a wide variety of sources (usually online). We can even find out where the buyer gets their information and how they perceive that information. Historically, marketing has been working on influencing the perceptions of buyers via engagement (often on various social media channels).
The new imperative for marketing is to share with the sales organization the same information that the buyer is gathering. In other words, marketing needs to take all the tools it is using to collect information about the company’s products and services, and the perceptions buyers and customers have about the company’s products and services, and then provide that information to sales.
How Marketing Must Help
What I’m really talking about here is having the marketing organization enable the sales team to have a deep understanding and empathy for the buyer as they proceed through the customer journey. Sales should fully understand what information the buyer is being exposed to and how they’re reacting to it. The sales rep now has an opportunity to meet the buyer exactly where they are in the customer journey with a full understanding of what they think and feel about the company’s products and services.
Armed with that information, with the ability to empathize with that buyer, the sales rep can now play the role of a valued advisor to the buyer. The best news of all is that this is the role the buyer wants the sales rep to play.
In fact, the sales rep who achieves a deep level of empathy with the buyer can move from a valued advisor to a trusted advisor. This can be accomplished when the sales rep acknowledges the issues and concerns that the sales rep know have been uncovered and discussed by other buyers who have shared those issues and concerns with his buyer.
The sales rep who treats the buyer as a highly informed person will earn the trust of that buyer. But the only way to treat the buyer is a highly informed person is for the sales rep to be highly informed.
Marketing already has the data collection and reporting tools at the brand level, now they just need to aim those tools in a way that collects the information that is most meaningful for the sales team.
When marketing proactively brings these insights to the sales team we will eliminate information asymmetry in the buyer’s favor, increase the value of the sales rep in the buyer’s eyes, and enable the sales rep to have the impact we are paying them to have.