What did we do twenty years ago when we wanted information on a certain product we were considering?
There was Consumer Reports. There were other magazines that might have done a review or two. There were your friends and family - a much smaller circle before Facebook helped us all reconnect.
And there was the salesperson. The gatekeeper. The controller of knowledge.
A Good Salesperson knew all there was to know about everything she sold and quite a lot about the stuff she didn't sell. A Good Salesperson knew all about you, too. What you liked and didn't like. What worked well for you. Your preferences. Your desires. A good salesperson let you through the gate, showed you what you needed to know, and found you the perfect fit.
When you found a good salesperson, you kept her. You went back to that store for the information, the suggestions and the personal touch. Oh sure, sometimes you got the information and bought elsewhere cheaper because of a deal too good to pass up. But you understood there was a price to that kind of knowledge and more often you were willing to pay for it.
The Internet changed all that.
Information is FREE. Wikipedia said so. Jeeves said so. Yahoo said so. Google said so. Information is free and plentiful. Not always accurate, but always out there.
Today we can pull up dozens of review sites, complete spec sheets and instructions, hordes of testimonials both good and bad all in a matter of seconds. Today we can walk into almost any store in America and know just as much or more about the product than the gum-chewing clerk waiting on us.
The Internet brought the level of available information up. But at the same time,the level of professionalism of the salesperson went down. I partly blame Albert Einstein who said, "Never memorize anything you can easily look up." It is so easy to look things up now that salespeople stopped knowing.
Except what does that tell the customer when your salespeople are looking up the same information the customer looked up last night at home?
The other thing we've lost has nothing to do with the Internet. Our salespeople have lost the ability to connect.
Information gotta be free. And it is. The difference now between "selling" and "clerking" is the connection. Go back up and read that paragraph about the Good Salesperson. Those last six sentences are why showrooming is such a big deal. Salespeople have forgotten about connecting. Customers feel no connection so they gather up all the free information they can and shop wherever they please.
Want to combat showrooming in your store? Spend your money hiring good salespeople who want to connect. Spend your money teaching them how to connect. Spend your money, your time, your effort getting to know your customers better.
The Internet will never be able to compete with that.
PS In a few days I'm going to be showing a bunch of juvenile product store owners how to connect and sell. Shortly after that I'm going to post my latest Freebie - Selling in a Showrooming World. If you can't make it to Vegas, be sure to look for the new eBook. Just like all the information I've posted... It's FREE!