Selling to the Intelligent Customers

••• The Intelligent Consumer. Getty Images

Of all the industry trends that have and are having an effect on the sales industry, none is as important as is the continual and never ending availability of easily accessible information. If you're old enough to remember life before the Internet, you'll remember that a large part of a sales professional's job was to inform their customers and prospects of advancements, new products and services and to share industry insights.

The Internet has changed all that.

You Are Still a Teacher

Despite the plethora of Internet-based sites that offer visitors educational and informational content, many consumers feel overwhelmed with the overload of available information. This is where the sales professional can play an important and critical role. And this role is where the modern day sales rep is earning customers, closing sales and excelling.

The sales rep of the Internet age understands that most customers either don't have the time or the interest to learn all that needs to be learned about a particular product, service or business challenge. In it is this "gap" of customer knowledge and understanding that you, the sales professional needs to focus your time and energy.

Approaching From a Zero-Base

If you were interested in learning about something of which you have no prior experience or knowledge, you would be considered to be starting at "zero base." This means you have not developed a platform or foundation onto which your continued learning is built atop.


Zero base customers are becoming less and less prevalent in the sales industry, but you should always assume that your prospect or customer is starting from a zero base of relevant knowledge. As you assume the role of informer or teacher, you build rapport and trust with your customer. As long as you "teach" with honesty, your position as you advance along the sales cycle will greatly improved.

Non Zero-Based Customers

While assuming that your prospects or customers are starting from a zero-base, don't be surprised if they possess some level of sophistication. This is a dangerous place as you may determine that the knowledge your customer has gained is either slanted towards a competitor's solution or may be so limited and erroneous that the customer is actually in a more ill informed position that are zero based customers.

You need to be patient with customers who fall into this category as many may feel that you are pompous or manipulative as you try to re-educate them. Proceed with confident patience and caution! Provide accurate information and demonstrate that your information is more viable and appropriate than what they have learned. A great way to provide this convincing information is via customer references, customer referrals and independent collateral.

Selling to Experts

Those sales professionals in the IT industry are often faced with selling to a decision maker whose education and informational knowledge far exceeds their own. Usually, someone who works in the IT industry knows everything about their particular field of expertise. However, they seldom are experts in all of the different fields of the IT world.

If you are an expert in a particular field on an industry, this is where you need to shine. Do not try to go head to head with a customer with an expertise in an industry topic as you will either be embarrassed or, more likely, lose any and all credibility that you may have established. Stick to what you know and provide alternate solutions and ideas to customers who simply know much more about a certain industry than do you.