New technologies mean that businesses have had to think through the nature of a sales event.It is traditional, per Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross, to think of a salesperson as the one who precipitates an event, and the event has been conceived as the face-to-face encounter of a nimble-tongued sophist (whether a Socrates or a Thrasymachus) and a prospect. The sales event was thought of as analogous to a point on a line, with particular emphasis on the “close,” the supreme importance of this instant. But today’s technologies have brought about a revolution in information—making it more abundant, yes, but also more available.And there is no longer a sales event proper (as there is, for instance, a gunshot in a Conan Doyle tale). Furthermore, it is unhelpful to remain in the habit of thinking in terms of such an event.
The sales “event” begins with what must be known in advance, before the prospect has even had a chance to ask a question. As Peter Ostrow of the Aberdeen Group has it, “By the time the prospect asks the salesperson a question, it is already too late.” In many cases, the question reflects the activities of those competitors who have arrived in advance, perhaps securing an inside track. It is often the case that a company knows little to nothing of a solution until it has been “educated” by a sales representative, and the new salesperson on the scene, before even making an entrance, could well already be at a serious disadvantage due to a persuasive spokesperson who has earned some credibility, whether ultimately justified or not. As such, the sales “event” is not the singular exchange between a buyer and a seller. Furthermore, it depends entirely on what ostensibly precedes it. What needs to precede it, if IT is to facilitate the success of a sales force, is the gathering and organization of all of the information that, among other functions, must be thought through to answer questions before they have been posed. It isn’t enough to know a name and an address, and new technologies made it possible to know so much more.