“I’ve been going to the same sales meeting since January 1985.”
When our client, a VP of Sales, dropped this statement, it got me thinking. How many norms from 30 or 40 years ago are still in place today simply because no one recognized how profoundly things have changed?
People are still running the same meetings and handling their personal lives in much the way they were three decades ago, despite the fact that a little invention called the Internet changed the flow of information forever.
Information at your fingertips in advance of a business or social interaction is a game changer. Those who leverage it have a distinct advantage over those who don’t. Here are two examples:
1. “Swipe left” dating
People may lament a dating world of snap judgments based on surface information. But if you’re looking for an actual relationship, the treasure trove of info on the Internet can make you more charming than you ever dreamed.
Think about it. First dates used to be filled with generic surface questions, and awkward silences. Not good at witty repartee — your social life may be doomed. Now, thanks to the Internet, if you do a little homework, you can be great dater. Instead of asking traditional questions, like “Where are you from?” start your conversation asking about their favorite song. Even Tinder includes a Spotify playlist.
The Internet puts pressure on people to make themselves seem more interesting. But smart daters flip it. There’s nothing more charming than someone who is genuinely interested in you. You can use the internet to ask better questions and make your conversation more compelling.
2. “What keeps you awake at night” sales calls
A few decades ago, someone got the bright idea that salespeople should ask questions about the customers business before they started pitching products. A plethora of sales training programs emerged to teach salespeople how to uncover their customers’ goals.
The question, “What keeps you awake at night?” became a mantra for customer-focused salespeople.
The concept (know your customer) is still spot on. But here’s the deal. That little thing called the Internet? That’s where you’re supposed to figure what keeps the customer awake at night, BEFORE you make a sales call.
The seller is no longer a source of coveted information. Buyers can find everything they need online. Yet many companies are still training their salespeople with techniques from the 1990s.
Sellers should not be asking about the customer’ situation. This information is widely available online. Instead sellers should be asking customers how they’re going to deal with these issues. The discovery phase is no longer about information exchange. It’s about exploring options.
The internet is constant in our lives, like running water and a Starbucks on every corner. Yet we often fail recognize the profound sociological shift this communication medium created. Previously closely kept information is now publically available. This leap is much like the dramatic changes that took place as a result of the invention of the printing press.
Prior to the printing press, very few people could read. Sacred truths, scientific information and new ideas were limited to the people in power. Because of the printing press, ideas could now be spread to the mainstream. Many suggest the American Revolution would not have happened without the printing press. The Federalist papers and other documents were shared broadly, rallying the public to the cause.
In some ways, everything has changed, and in others ways nothing has changed. People still want a connection. They still want to belong, and they still want you to care. The web is your tool to make that happen.