Video may have killed the radio star, but the Internet is killing the salesperson. At least in the form we’ve known her to be in the past.

Salespeople used to be the guardians of information, didn’t they? You couldn’t really find out much about a company’s products or services without interacting on some level with someone in sales. But that’s changed drastically thanks to the internet and social sites.

Here’s an excerpt from the book, Sales Chaos, by Tim Ohai and Brian Lambert that really explains this shift:

Salespeople used to be the guardians of product and industry knowledge. We used to schedule appointments to share information with potential and current customers so that we could use the conversation to create influence. But now we’ve put everything onto our websites and given people the information before they even request it. The result? While buyers appreciate the open access and marketing can show some activity, the influence of the sales professional has shrunk, and in some cases disappeared.

So What’s the Value of Sales These Days?

It’s clear that the value for your company is no longer in providing information to customers. They can get that on their own. As a salesperson, you’ve got to identify what makes your role valuable to that customer. According to Sales Chaos, “Today, value is about a business conversation that occurs at all levels of the organization so that you can drive the right outcomes for the customer–repeatedly.”

Did you catch that word? Conversation. As a salesperson, you need to have those conversations with the buyer that help you identify what he needs. You can no longer push a list of features and benefits down his throat: he wants you to hear what he’s looking for in a product.

And the conversations go beyond the sales process. You can’t abandon a customer once you close the sale; buyers now want you to continue the relationship beyond the sale. You might consider this to be the job of Customer Service or another department, but the truth is: Salesperson 2.0 is the relationship manager for the life of the customer relationship. If a customer has a problem with the product, it’s your job to fix it (even if behind the scenes it’s someone else doing the work).

Examining Salesperson 2.0

Back in the day, a slick presentation and persistent attitude were enough to make you salesperson of the year. Not so these days. Today’s salesperson, whom we’ll call Salesperson 2.0, must be well-rounded in a variety of categories.

She must be in tune with the industry. With the sheer number of websites, blogs and print publications in a given field, there’s not excuse not to know what’s going on. Plus, being in the dark can make you look like a dummy, and that’s the last thing you want to be in front of a customer.

She needs to be social savvy. She should speak languages like Twitter, Facebook and Google +, and know how to use them to connect with customers and build relationships with the online.

Listening is key. Every customer is an individual with different needs, so it’s important to be able to hear what a customer is saying. Product features are no longer of interest to customers. It’s all about “what’s in it for me?”

Salesperson 2.0 must interact with other departments at her company. She’s no longer a one-woman show; she must rely on her relationships with people in marketing, customer service, accounting and fulfillment to be successful.

It’s only natural that the sales profession should evolve. These days, we’re more customer centric than ever, and that’s a good thing, once you can shift your approach to keep the customers’ needs and wants at the center of your value proposition. Master this, and you’ll discover the secrets to sales in the Age of the Internet!