I feel like I’ve been selling forever. When I was twelve, I visited my father at his audio and electronics store and watched a presentation about the differences in the TVs that were on display. There was one particular TV that happened to be the most expensive because it had the deepest blacks and therefore gave the best quality picture. Later that day, the store got overwhelmed. I saw a young couple looking at TVs, and I walked up to them and said, “Listen, if you’re going to look at all these TVs, I want you to find the one that has the deepest blacks.” They quickly found it, and within a couple minutes of chatting with them, I asked them if they wanted me to ring it up.
That was the first sale I ever had—a $2,800 sale, which astonished my father and everybody else that worked in the store.
That experience taught me the importance of selling, communicating, and believing in a product. For a long time after I graduated from college, I worked in direct sales—hardcore direct sales for some of the largest telecommunications companies on the planet. But I noticed that we were sometimes selling things that didn’t necessarily make the most sense to the end customer. Not only that, but it was never really advantageous to us to recommend one of our competitors, even when we knew that they had a better product than us.
That just didn’t align with what I believed in, so I ended up leaving those companies. I joined a company called CDW, which represents the whole industry of technology. While I was there, I helped build a division of the company that represented all the carriers of the world, the data of centers of the world, in an agnostic way. Rather than focusing on sales, we worked to keep the end customer’s best interests in mind and, based on our knowledge of the market, serve as a sort of matchmaker between them and the technology companies that best served their needs.
I quickly saw the difference between the division I was building and the direct sales I had done in the past: with this trusted advisor model, I had more support and more resources than I had ever had before. And because we were in a position to represent all sorts of disruptors, technology leaders, and companies, everybody had more skin in the game and more reason to ensure that we were successful.
And we did succeed, because the reality is, many industries have evolved to a point where direct sales are no longer in the customer’s best interest. When I got started in the telecommunications industry, it was a commodity market: you had to buy circuits and other technologies, but there wasn’t a ton of choice. Your decision was mostly about cost.
Today, the only thing that is constant is the level of choice. There have never been more companies—including companies you’ve never heard of before—that are laser focused on a couple of specific areas and can generally do things better than any IT staff could do on their own.
This kind of marketplace is not exclusive to the technology industry. In the insurance industry, the trusted advisor model has also seen great success. Companies like Pepsi or Google don’t go directly to Aetna or New York Life when they want a new benefits package for their employees—they bring in an agnostic consultant who, based on the company’s size, growth, and function, serves as a matchmaker for them.
My cofounder Ian Kieninger and I set up our company Avant to reflect this reality. There were some legacy companies that were taking advantage of the trusted advisor model, but there wasn’t anybody who was providing those trusted advisors with sales enablement, tools and technology, statistics on where the market was going, or white-glove support. Nor was there a platform that was truly prepared and ready for the next generation of technology.
Avant was designed to offer all of those things. We were the first to offer those kinds of tools, resources, and sales enable to trusted advisors in the technology industry. We were the first to get into cloud technologies, and the first to get into next-generation IT. All of that has helped spur a movement—a movement of informed, prepared trusted advisors dedicated to working with end customers as an extension of their team and helping them navigate the ever-changing market.
There will always be a need for some sort of direct selling entity, but by and large, direct sales are a thing of the past. The world of the trusted advisor is here to stay.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Profile or Guerrero Media.
Drew Lydecker is the cofounder and president at AVANT, a global leader in powering next-generation technology decisions. Drew comes from a family of entrepreneurs who have continually pushed the envelope in disrupting the status quo by focusing on high-value and high-touch solutions.
Drew built AVANT to fill a void in the market created by the accelerating pace of change in IT. AVANT’s market research, resources, and technology helps trusted advisors support their customers to achieve their business transformation objectives by navigating the ever-changing IT landscape. From complex cloud design to global wide-area network deployments, AVANT empowers trusted advisors and clients with access to the global marketplace of cloud, colocation, and telecom service providers that are disrupting today’s IT landscape. Learn more about Drew here.