Have you ever drank a milkshake through a straw too fast? You know the feeling, right? Now look at the marketplace and the internet. There are literally hundreds of variations of multiple products available for researching, comparing, pricing and purchasing. Most of those steps along the buyer journey no longer involve interacting with a sales representative, face-to-face or otherwise. The question then becomes: “How can representatives POSSIBLY make an impact?” The same way you can prevent brain freeze when drinking the milkshake: SLOW THE FLOW.
Customers are as overwhelmed at their options as anyone else. There is simply too much to consume randomly, and the volume is only going to continue expanding exponentially within the next decade. So what needs to happen? How are people going to “slow the flow”? It’s going to start by being far more selective with their attention. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. Never will there be any more or any less. At some point, people will get overwhelmed with consumption and will withdraw toward more preservation of their quality time with those who matter most. The timeline for this shift is variable: Some are just more tolerant of interruptions than others who have already begun the process (like myself).
If we were to look back about 15 years, how many people still had land lines? How many households had DVR’s? How many magazines were listed in the local elementary school’s fundraising packet? How many social media platforms were there? You’re getting the picture, right? Fast forward to today and ask the same questions again. Besides the obvious, what’s another big difference between then and now? Back then, much of the sorting between Stephen Covey’s time management categories of important, urgent, not important, not urgent was done by HAND…we could physically touch, sort, and retain or discard whatever items we wanted. Today, the majority of physical items we receive come to us in the form of direct mail. Many people now consume newspapers, magazines, and business correspondence online. Do we expect the level of such consumption to increase or diminish in the years ahead? Exactly.
This is a problem because, unlike physical newspapers and magazines, the information being consumed can only be seen, not touched. Therefore, the amount of time spent sorting is dramatically diminished. Similar to the mouse-click theory of first impressions, representatives who DO NOT have a current “in” with a community are going to be faced with an overwhelming challenge in the near future. People they are trying to reach have already begun taking steps to prevent brain freeze by forming and engaging with their own communities of shared world views. If these representatives try to gain permission to solicit products and services to these communities through traditional interruptive means, the members of the target community will simply cut off their straw.