It’s a Friday night. It’s been a long week, but you’re finally at home and ready to unwind.
You sit in front of the TV, open up Netflix (or Amazon Prime, Hulu, or your favorite streaming option), and BAM…all of a sudden you are faced with a massive number of choices. Lists and lists of movies, TV shows, documentaries, shorts…they keep coming. There are so many options that you might spend all of your time going through them and trying to pick one.
I call it the Netflix Hole, where you spend your down-time looking through all the entertainment options instead of being entertained by one of them.
If you’ve spent any time there, you know the paralysis that is affecting your potential customers. And we can see how adding more technology isn’t always the answer to helping them move to a decision.
You Know Your Buyer’s World Because You Are One
Picking a movie to watch is a relatively low-risk decision, but there’s an overwhelming amount of information to go through when making a choice.
In this situation, Netflix tries to help by curating the list for you and making suggestions based on what you’ve seen before. Their algorithm is working in the background, trying to decide which movies it should recommend or even offer up in the first place.
It does help to cull the number of options to a more manageable level (the number of titles can reach over 10,000 depending on the service). But it doesn’t necessarily help you pick the exact right movie to watch. Going from 10,000 to 100 is helpful, but you can only watch 1. Unless you have a lot of time to binge-watch movies and TV, you need to make a final decision.
So even though the algorithms are narrowing down the field of focus, they aren’t always the best at helping us make the final decision.
And that’s where we see the problem with a technology-centric approach to selling. Even though an algorithm might be powerful, it can’t be the only source of contact with a prospect. Technology is incredibly good at automating some parts of the process, but it can’t do everything. So a sales approach that relies too much on technology to do the work will often be incomplete.
Listening to People We Trust
Looking back at the Netflix Hole, we can glimpse the missing ingredient that can influence a prospect’s buying decision.
What really guides a lot of our watching choices? More often than not, it’s the recommendations and suggestions of the people around us: friends, family, acquaintances. Netflix is trying to serve up suggestions based on our past viewing experience. But we are much more likely to bite when a friend says, “Hey, have you checked out Game of Thrones, yet? You totally should.”
For example, when the movie Zombieland came out, it wasn’t on my list of movies to see. My friend Rob knew I wasn’t into horror movies or gratuitous gore, but he insisted I watch the movie. Because even though I’m not that into zombie flicks, he knew that the humor and satire were right up my alley (and hey, Bill Murray). And he was right on the money. Now it’s one of my favorites.
So even if Netflix had offered it up as a suggestion, I wouldn’t have chosen it. With Rob’s input, though, I found a movie I really enjoyed.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about that story, because it’s one you’re familiar with. But think about this: you already know how to support and influence the buyers you work with because you know what they are going through. You have been a buyer yourself. You’ve had to contend with situations where you had a huge amount of information and you had to make a decision.
The Role of the Sales Sherpa™
Your job as a salesperson is to be the guide that helps your buyer translate all of the information they have into a usable form. You are a Sales Sherpa and your job is take them up the mountain to help them achieve their goal: making the best decision they can.
There’s two important components in my Zombieland story that show us where we need to spend our time as salespeople:
- First, Rob has a lot of insight into movies because he is a bit of a movie fanatic. Over time he shared his knowledge and enthusiasm with me (we’ve been friends for a long time). In other words, I know he is an expert.
- Just as importantly, I trusted his suggestion because I trusted him. We had built a relationship, and he knew what I was enjoy. We had gotten to know each other so I trusted his suggestion and was willing to to act on it.
I’m not saying you have to be best friends with your customers. But being a successful salesperson isn’t about just interrupting your prospects until they buy from you. (Here are the 7 sales skills you do need).
They are probably buying a product or service where the risk/reward spectrum is much bigger than a few wasted hours.
What they are waiting for is someone who will help them make a better decision. They are spending time, money, and attention on this process, and they don’t want to screw it up. They want someone who they know is an expert and who they know they can trust. If you can fill that void, you will be indispensable.
So here’s the guiding question you can ask yourself every day, “How am I becoming the trusted source of guidance for my customers?”
In other words, look for ways to position yourself as a Sales Sherpa. When that happens, you’ll become the trusted advisor that helps your prospective customers make sense of the information-overwhelm out there. You’ll be the one that helps them make a decision. And more often than not, that decision will be to work with you.