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In the distant past, salespeople were a primary channel for educating customers about solutions and providing information. Customers had few convenient channels to learn about solutions and new approaches to their business. Trade shows, magazines, meeting with peers also provided some of this information, but salespeople had always been critical for information delivery.

Fast forward to today, customers have many sources of information about solutions. Company websites, industry websites, peer discussion groups, other web-based and traditional channels have become key sources of information for prospects and buyers.

Data shows customers relatively agnostic about which channels they use. Additionally, the research shows customers tend to leverage multiple information channels, simultaneously.

As we look at our buyer enablement strategies, it’s important to recognize these trends. We need to, thoughtfully, provide timely, contextually relevant, and impactful information to customers through multiple channels. We have to be consistent in what we communicate and how we communicate through each of those channels. Customers want to see a consistent, high-value message through each channel they leverage.

As one might guess, salespeople continue to be one of those information channels customers continue to leverage. As a result, we must make sure the information they deliver is consistent with each channel the customer leverages. Nothing can be more devastating in the way we engage our customers, than to have the salesperson communicating something different than what they are seeing through other channels.

Too often, in our content and information delivery strategies, we overlook the role of the salesperson. As a result, we miss an important opportunity to reinforce and amplify what we are communicating to customers.

But is that all?

Are salespeople just conduits for delivering information to our customers? Or do they play a more important role?

If all buying involves is collecting and analyzing the relevant information, then perhaps the way we help facilitate the buying process is optimizing the information delivery channels, particularly what and how salespeople deliver information.

Unfortunately, buying is much more complex. It involves far more than analyzing information about alternative solutions or approaches to improving business performance.

It turns out the toughest parts of buying involve much more than getting the right information. It is about effectively managing the human to human interactions through their buying process. Buyers need to align priorities, agendas, goals among an ever increasing number of people involved in the buying process. They do this in a fluid environment, shifting priorities and lower tolerance for risk/change. They face uncertainty, confusion in working within their own buying teams. They are overwhelmed and overloaded.

And more information doesn’t necessarily help.

In this context, how can salespeople be most helpful.

I think it’s adding “meaning.”

By this, it’s translating information into something specific to the buyer at a point in time–it’s not about the information or data, per se, but rather about what it means to the individual or buying team. What does it mean personally, how do we overcome fears, uncertainty, how do we capture the hearts and brains–simultaneously.

Buying is still an emotional process, but too often we ignore this, thinking it is brain driven/intellectual. But if it were, why would two intelligent people come to different assessments of the same data/information.

Buying, as logical as we want to make is still messy–because it is about the interactions and dynamics of people communicating (or communicating poorly) with each other.

Salespeople provide the single critical bridge to these human to human interactions. They provide the ability to engage not only the minds of customers, but their hearts. Salespeople translate data to meaning for each person involved in the buying process.

We need to recognize that salespeople have a much richer role in buying than as information concierges. We need to develop their skills and capabilities in creating meaning for customers, connecting with other humans, creating order out of all the “messiness” that occurs as people work with other people.

This is what drives buying success.

This is what drives sales success.