Information Is Currency

Published December 3, 2012

Few pursuits provide their practitioners as constrained a work environment as professional sales, especially in complex environments. Sellers don’t control their product, quality, marketing, customers, competitors, or pricing. What they do control is, what they know, and how and when to apply what they know. Our firm, Pathworks delivers a practice management discipline to companies and individual sales professionals called The Path.  One of the core concepts we emphasize on the Path is “Information is Currency”.

Currency as an exchange medium is always of relative value. In a sales cycle, that value is tied to the complexity of the offering and the timing of the exchange. More complex offerings require more information –  both from the seller and from the buyer.  So, the information in these situations has a higher relative value.  Information is also at the peak of its value when it is needed most to move the exchange along.

In general, prospective customers want to know two things:

  • How does your offering work?
  • How much does it cost?

The seller in this relationship also wants to know a few things:

  • How do I get access to the information and people necessary to resolve the buyer’s problem and to persuade action?
  • What are the barriers, objections and alternatives that the buyer has?

One sure sign of an unsophisticated seller is the willingness to offer all he knows related to functionality and pricing of his product, right off the bat.  Sellers can often be eager to please and believe that their role is to be an information source for their prospective customers.  They are doing a great disservice to themselves and their prospective customer by doing this.  Not only will they get put in the closet to sit and think for a while, they will lose the opportunity to truly help the prospective customer solve a problem that could benefit both himself and his company.

Another sign of a seller’s poor practice is the willingness to push proposals before they gather all of the information they need from the prospect. In a common exercise in our corporate implementations, we ask sellers to compare the different levels of responsiveness by prospects who already have a proposal to those still waiting for the information on functionality and pricing. In virtually every case, prospects with proposals become non-responsive. Why wouldn’t they? They already have what they want.

As the seller awaits a decision from the buyer, he can no longer influence the flow of information and the timing of the exchange. In our construct of information as currency, he is bankrupt. Unless the seller has already capitalized on the access and relationships he needs to properly manage the sales cycle, he will remain uninformed and at the mercy of the barriers, objectives, and alternatives that he did not address.

That is why, on the Path, the close isn’t the culmination of the sales cycle.  The proposal is. A key feature of our practice discipline is the guarded and protected status of the proposal. Prospects don’t get a proposal, they earn it.

Few pieces of information are more “currency”-rich as price.  Yet, every day we see this great tool of leverage handed out like cheap candy. Often, it is not the seller who is doing this undermining, but the company’s own website.  Think about this before you list the price of your product online.  If the value of what a seller knows can be readily replicated online, the currency value of the information rarely supports the cost of a direct-sales professional. In fact, few professional sellers would tolerate the kind of environment where they are forced to go to market with an information arsenal that is less than half-full.

So what is our proof of this fundamental concept – that in sales, information is currency? Besides being a principle of the communication arts, the proof is in the response. We have been practicing sales within the bounds of this construct for many years and have yet to see a situation where the following does not hold true:

If a potential client wants to “know”, they will exchange.

If they’re really not interested, they’ll balk.

And, if all they want is a price for spreadsheet column fodder, and you resist the exchange, they’ll go look for another patsy.

In sales, what you know about your product and pricing is valuable. How valuable? In a large part, that’s up to the seller. How and when the information is used will determine the exchange rate. Be smart, float your exchange rate up, and use your currency to its maximum potential.

Key takeaway:  Treat the information you have about your offering as currency.  Spend it only in exchange for information you need from your perspective customer.  Don’t spend it too soon in a sales cycle or you will go bankrupt, and your sales process will stop moving forward.

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About The Author

Spider Lockhart headshot
Spider Lockhart is the founding partner of Pathworksa boutique sales management consulting firm.  He has extensive experience in the sales profession ranging from his initiation to selling in the financial services markets to leadership assignments at companies ranging from pre-IPO start-ups to the Global 500. His development of the award-winning sales practice management system, The Path, has led him to engagements in virtually every sector of the business landscape.