Recently I was forwarded a link to Peter Horan's outstanding Digiday Post, "In the Digital Age, Everyone Still Needs 'a Guy.'" Peter's premise is that in spite of all our fancy technology, "...there is an element of judgment and service that we have yet to figure out how to replicate." In the real world when your radiator gives out, or you're not certain what restaurant to trust with the rehearsal dinner, someone will invariably say "I know a guy...." (I'll dispense with the obvious early in this post by saying the "guy" is quite often female, so no hatemail, please.)
Indeed in an age like the one upon us -- when we are overwhelmed by choice, conflicting data points and the din of the marketplace -- we can all use "a guy." Someone who can give us a frank opinion, a tip, much-needed perspective on a situation that we can no longer see clearly. If I were faced with plotting my company's future path relative to data policies or relationships with trading desks and DSP technology, I'd sure want someone to say, "I know a guy...."
It occurs to me that each of us has the capacity to be "the guy" in one area of expertise or another. There are wine guys and Japanese cuisine guys. There are data guys and mobile guys and social guys. But so many of us in sales feel like we have to master it all; that we have to be "the guy" to our customers regardless of the issue at hand. A dangerous and misdirected strategy to be sure. No one can cover that much ground; you risk becoming a dilettante at best, but more likely a poser.
No, to truly serve customers and grow our own value, be "the guy who knows a guy." Collect experts. Introduce them freely to others. Admire and validate what they know and celebrate it to others. Become one of the most useful people your customers know because of all the useful people you know. Be a human router of knowledge and excellence.
At the end of the day, that's the kind of person you pay a premium to do business with.