Is the profession of sales in a death spiral?
We’ve now come to realize the internet and technology are the great disruptors to anything and everything.
If the internet and the application of technology hasn’t disrupted what you do, then just wait.
If it has disrupted you already, just wait.
It will do it again.
The business process is quickly becoming the business moment. An incredibly successful business process one year may very well become antiquated the next year.
There are several coming into play. First and foremost is the availability of information to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This alone makes a key part of the traditional salesperson’s job irrelevant.
Second, there is the acceptance in the marketplace regarding supply-chains and the fact many can be consolidated significantly. In so doing, there is improvement of the customer experience at a lower cost. Again, this means the cost structure of a typical salesperson can be seen as a liability rather than an asset.
Third, geographical boundaries have been virtually eliminated thanks to the web. The only boundaries left are political boundaries and physical transportation. Both of these are fluid and always subject to a “work-around” solution.
Again, this makes what many salespeople viewed as their “territory” virtually meaningless.
Many people would argue the points I’ve outlined above would indicate the sales profession is doomed in the same way the internet has killed off numerous other professions.
My argument is these arguments make the role of the salesperson that much more important.
Why? The customer is not emerging as a customer until they’re much closer to the point in time of making a decision.
Simple example is a few years ago if you were looking to buy a car, you may start visiting car dealers several months before being ready to buy. The reason you may have done this is to allow yourself to become educated and knowledgable about the purchase process.
Today, most people don’t visit the dealership until they’re ready to buy, because they’ve done all their homework on the internet.
Think about this situation. This makes the role of the salesperson even more important, because they only get one interaction with the customer.
This same situation applies to virtually every other buying process. Key thing that must change is the ability of the salesperson to close the sale using fewer sales calls.
Let’s play with a few numbers to drive this point home. In the pre-internet era, an average purchase might entail 4 interactions with a salesperson. This means the salesperson only had to close a sale 25% of the time they meet with a customer.
Now let’s look at things today. If the average purchase entails only 2 interactions with a salesperson, this means the salesperson must be able to achieve a 50% close ratio.
Which one is more important and requires more skill? The latter one.
The sales profession is not doomed to be a relic.
Yes, it will fade for many low-value purchase decisions, but let’s not kid ourselves — those people weren’t selling; they were merely taking orders.
For larger more-sophisticated purchases, the selling process is alive and well and will only become more intense with the continued spread of information.
What must change is the sales process.
To be successful, salespeople have to be more closely aligned with their marketing teams to ensure messaging from the internet is what it should be and is reaching the right market.
Second, the sales process needs to be shortened to take more advantage of customers looking to make faster decisions.
To achieve both of these, we have to view two things with equal importance: Information and time. Information available anytime, anywhere, and time to be able to service the customer at their decision-making moment.
Do you see how vitally important a true salesperson really is?
Copyright 2014, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.
Mark, I liked your article. I asked a question to a guy over at HubSpot a while back. The question I asked was “Do you think a large corporation is going to make a large software purchase that could cause a catastrophe without actually talking to a sales rep?” I was expecting his answer to be “no” but his answer shocked me. He said “you’d be surprised how much larger companies are coming around to the idea”. Now, call me a dinosaur, but I can’t wrap my head around a $5 million purchase being made on PayPal without talking to a single sales rep. Good post Mark. I welcome your feedback on any of my blog posts as well.