A line from the popular documentary The Social Dilemma has circulated around the internet. “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.” The money-making of technology is strange and unique. When it comes to a lot of technology, especially social media and tech applications, you don’t always have to be sold a product. Often you are sold on the features and agree to some pretty unsettling terms in the process. The sales of technology doesn’t always have to do with advertising products, it can be focused on giving you something for your data and information. While hardware electronics are focused on traditional sales and advancements, digital products are based on selling a habit.
Traditional Hardware Electronics Sales
A lot of technological product sales are based on advancements. When a new iPhone comes out, Apple doesn’t need to advertise it very much. They only need to create mystery and announce it. This is how hardware electronics are mostly being sold these days. When a new VR advancement is announced, they aren’t typically advertisements, marketing, or a sales guy trying to get you to buy something you don’t need. It is a niche market where the people who are interested go out of their way to purchase the product anyways.
This goes for video games, phones, VR, and many more hardware electronics. While desktops computers and laptops still need to be advertised, sales for technology has changed because just about everyone needs a computer. The changing sales landscape of technology has evolved from these hardware products to software and digital products that are sometimes free. However, the economic principle there is no such thing as a free lunch applies here.
Sales in Intangible Tech Products
The meaning of sales has completely changed with intangible and often free technological products. Traditional sales training won’t do the whole job anymore. While it helps, sales for these products is based on metric-informed habit-forming. It is about the product and business model itself. Data, as they say, is the new gold. It is the next oil. Data can not only inform companies how people behave, it can provide a way to utilize that information for new technological products.
This is how Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media companies are able to stay totally free to their users. They are selling your data to others, including sometimes nefarious organizations like Cambridge Analytica, which managed Donald Trump’s shifty social media marketing campaign in the 2016 Election. They are also using this data for their own means, to sell you targeted and eerily poignant ads.
The problem with this business model is that so many tech corporations have adopted it to seek out their profits and means of growth. Sales is no longer about selling a customer a specific product, it is about selling them a lifestyle. A habit. An addiction. When the new addiction is technology and not pills or alcohol or cigarettes, it can be difficult to see how detrimental these apps and sites really are. Then with you hooked and your behavior predictable, they can spread this information and make so much money by selling it to a range of companies and other private entities.
What Can We Do?
Obviously not everyone agrees with this approach. The customer doesn’t exactly know what they are buying because they are not necessarily buying anything at all. They are agreeing to be used. Sales has always taken advantage of people, but the sales of big tech and the array of technologies at our disposal have obfuscated the fact they are even using people.
Essentially this comes from traditional sales ideas and culture, only with a glossy new finish. As a society we have to say no to these products and services. We need to demand clear and honest sales tactics. We need to show that we are on to these mind-blowingly rich corporations that go unchecked with their technological sales tactics. We are not utilizing products anymore, we are becoming them. Soon we may be incapable of separating ourselves from what we own because all that we own will be our data and our behavior. We are being sold and, up until now, have done very little to stop it.