Selling, it seems to me, still has something of the door-to-door salesman of old about it.
(Picture via http://fivepuddles.com/2009/12/03/the-door-to-door-salesman/)
Imagine this scenario. A salesman walks into a pub with a case full of samples and products. There’s a din, a hubbub. He can see some likely customers. But they are engrossed in conversation. They pay him no attention.
So he listens. He watches and starts to work out the various conversations taking place around the pub. From the din, he extracts those conversations that are relevant to him, and to what he has to sell.
Ah, there’s an old customer, someone he recognizes, someone he knows is happy with a purchase made previously.
And there’s someone he needs to steer well clear of, someone who made it crystal clear that they were not interested he what he had to sell at an earlier encounter! (And he still has the bruises to prove it.)
There are many clues and prompts. His task is to work out who the most promising prospects are and then create his pitch and move in.
And the analogy goes further. Because he has chosen those prospects most prepared to listen, and because his success rate increases as a result, the word spreads around the pub that there’s something on offer. The connections are made. The fans acting as the salesman’s advocates start to show off their purchases, which in turn encourages a subsidiary group who also buy some product.
The social web scales this effect, from a pub full of people to many thousands of people across a country. All send signals, freely, about what they like, what they want, what they need, and what they don’t like, want or need.
They ask their friends for advice. They seek validation from experts. They share good and bad experiences.
The salesman in the pub had two choices: listen and then sell to the most promising prospects, or dive in and hope for the best.
Same as today.