In the “good old days,” perhaps 10+ years ago, salespeople were the primary source of information about potential solutions for their customers. Customers and prospects sought sales people to learn about new solutions, trends in the markets, what other similar companies were doing.

Customers, also, looked for other sources of information–through networking with others, conferences, trade magazines, research companies, consultants, and others.

But getting this information, particularly high quality, trustworthy information was a challenge. Customers often found themselves wanting more, or questioning the quality of that which they were getting. They struggled with the issue, “Is there anything else we need to learn, what are we missing that could be important?”

Fast forward to today, the situation couldn’t be more different. The pendulum has swung to the other side. Our customers are drowning in information! They have many sources of information of all types. Most is easily accessible through electronic channels.

The role of sales people as the primary source of learning and information has been displaced by other sources. These are more accessible to customers, and often much better. If the customer can get the needed information from these digital and other sources, then they don’t need to talk to sales people.

This creates a real problem for sales people that can only talk about their products–they become redundant in the process. We have to find other things to talk to customers about, different ways to create value.

But this has created a real problem for customers, as well. They have too much information, some of it conflicting—and most of it is very high quality. They struggle with information overload. They struggle to make sense of this overwhelming amount of information. What is most important to them? What should they ignore? How do they translate it into things relevant to their specific issues/situation?

Customers need help, not with getting more information, but in figuring out what information they need, what they should ignore, how they sort through and prioritize what they’ve learned.

This is where great salespeople can help the customer sort through the information, determine what’s most important, helping the customer make sense of what they have learned.

But to help the customer make sense of all this information, salespeople have to know more than their products and services. They have to understand the customer, their business, what they are trying to achieve. They have to help the customer navigate all the information, translating it to the customer’s specific situation and goals.

Rather than the “source” of information, salespeople become sensemakers, helping customer determine what’s most important and meaningful, guiding them through what it means in moving forward in achieving their goals.

What are you doing to help your customers deal with information abundance?