Editor's Note: Jeremy Stewart contributed insights to our recent Sales Rep 2.0 feature. This column expands on what we published then.

Photo provided by Jeremy Stewart

With the incredible technological victories that we all enjoy daily at work and at home, it sounds archaic to question the new approach to selling that many new agents now practice. In lieu of approaching customers in person or by phone, many modern sales agents now practice a new, less confrontational, tech-heavy approach. They firmly believe it is a value-add to the prior generation’s approach, catering to their customer’s convenience and preference. But is this really how customers of today want to interact?

For decades, the most iconic communicators in America have been the salespeople, standing as the outliers, at the front lines of new forms of communication. Salespeople and emerging businesses have long defined communication, refusing to remain trapped in the conventional social norms of conveying a message. Not only do these businesses trail blaze new ways to communicate about their product value, they captivate and connect with customers because of HOW they communicate. But today, in a society so inundated with digital media that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8, what does it take to make a profitable impact on customers who have even less time to listen?

People still want to know valuable people. People who bring authentic value to their lives. Think about your best friends and the people who you make an effort to keep close. They are those who bring meaning and value to your life. As much as you may text, Instagram, Tweet or Facebook, you still seek the same thing in the people you spend time with. Our industry is no different. The tragedy is this: thanks to the advancement of available product and pricing information, some customers have found that their sales representatives don’t bring sufficient value to warrant the investment of time they require.

In this era of incredible information availability, never has the customer, architect and engineer had so much information at their fingertips without the assistance of the salesperson. From helping their customer procure other non-related savings to finding their customer new opportunities, the new era of sales agent will need to bring authentic value to the table to warrant a spot in the customer’s day-to-day lives. While the pros of yesteryear commonly bounced from joist span tables to millwork profiles to window schedules and back to grades of cedar shakes, the younger generation has found that there hasn’t been much need to possess this understanding, thanks to the availability of the information.

As the information available in the market has become more available, issues facing today’s builders have also grown more complex. Fire-ratings, intricate hardware packages, ornate weatherization requirements, and the massive variety of available products in the marketplace have all left the customer in need of an expert. No matter how much time a builder spends researching product, most would jump at the opportunity to know a true product expert who is able to offer real solutions that help them profit in their market.

It has never been easier to stand out as a communicative outlier than it is today. By simply showing up to the meeting with valuable samples, cost-savings ideas or project-specific insight will set you apart from your text-messaging, email writing competitors. Not convinced? How honored do you feel when your 49 “Facebook friends” wrote their cursory “happy BD!” on your Facebook feed compared to the one who bought you lunch?

This new generation of sales people bring a technological prowess that has never been seen before. But for these sales agents to make an impact in this rapidly-evolving marketplace, they must be stand-alone communicators with time-saving insights for their customers. Sure, text, email or make smoke signals if the customer wants to communicate this way. But sales leaders will also make in-person connection with prospective customers while bringing valuable insight to the issues that their customer is struggling to solve. By doing this alone, the sales agents of the future will be miles ahead of those who make only the digital attempt.