Twenty years ago if you wanted to purchase a car you were critically dependent upon car dealers to support your buying process. Suffering through the sales pitches of pushy sales reps at car dealerships was a rite of passage for all those seeking a new vehicle. But from the 1920s up until the late 1990s buyers had little choice. How else could you get information about the various makes and models available to buy? How else could you get pricing information for the factory model and various add-ons? Today, of course, you can go online to research cars, compare prices or place a build-to-order request for your preferred vehicle. And you can do this all without the sales rep being present.
The same painful process used to exist for purchases of computer hardware and software. To get information about products such as data sheets and white papers, you had to contact the vendor to get hard copies mailed to you. To obtain cost information, you had to wait until the vendor thought you were well-qualified enough to offer their price sheets. To get a demo, you had to arrange for the vendor to come on-site and display the product live in your conference room. To develop a proof-of-concept you needed to jump through hoops to get a specialized, trial-version of the software installed in your data centers. And to obtain references you needed to being walking down the aisle approaching the altar, before the vendor would let you speak to any of its coveted reference accounts.
Compare the old model to today’s model. Today, the customer is armed with a seemingly limitless amount of information available for free on the Internet. They are not waiting on the vendor to provide documentation or respond to questions. They are completely empowered to develop strategies autonomously. They can find their own pricing and customer references online. They can demo or free trial the software without every speaking to a sales representative.
The transition from a vendor-led sales process to a customer-driven buying process has occurred over the past ten years. And more and more of the process will be conducted without the sales rep being present.