We talk with clients a lot about how the buying process has changed in the past decade. Frankly, a whole lot of companies are still trying to sell things just like they did ten years ago. Not a recipe for success.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to rethink your company’s approach to selling in light of how people make buying decisions in this world of technology.  Start by taking a look at the two following changes that have altered buyers’ decision-making:

Driver #1: The Walmart Effect

About 25 years ago, everyone stopped shopping at Sears and started shopping at Walmart. Back then, when you were shopping at Sears, you could find knowledgeable employees who knew everything about each of the products in their departments. They knew about hardware, appliances, lawn care products, exercise equipment, and so forth. Quite possibly, they had worked at Sears for a decade or more and were planning to be lifers.

Then everyone discovered Walmart. Stuff was cheaper.  Everyone started to shop at Walmart.

We also discovered – oddly enough – that other than the greeter and cashiers, there weren’t too many other employees in the store. All right, I’m exaggerating just a bit, but it really became hard to find an employee if you needed help. Shoppers quickly learned that all of the store’s inventory was on the shelves, so there wasn’t much to be gained by looking for an employee. Moreover, there were only two employees who really knew anything about any of the products in the store.  The pharmacist knew about everything in the pharmacy section, and the guy (usually) behind the counter in sporting goods knew about guns but probably didn’t know much about soccer balls or shin guards.

Result: We stopped asking for help. Now if a product isn’t on the shelf, we buy something else that might work. And if we guess wrong, we shrug it off and tell ourselves we wasted only a few bucks.

Driver #2: Access to Information

The information revolution empowered consumers by providing them knowledge once reserved for sellers. It started with people using the web via computer and shifted into high gear with the proliferation of smartphones. Now consumers can instantly self-educate – anytime, anywhere.  We no longer miss the salesperson at Sears.  In fact, we don’t want a salesperson interfering with our shopping experience.

How to Adjust

Consumers are clearly in control. They’ve grown accustomed to doing their own research and reaching their own conclusions, all while blocking out endless marketing messages which they no longer trust.

The only way to be successful in this environment is to gain consumers’ trust. You’ve got to be credible, and your authenticity has to come through in your website, ads, brochures and conversations.