“My interest in the future is because I am going to spend the rest of my life there” – Charles Kettering.
There will always be; has to be, on-going, and lively debate – I suspect it even occupied the thoughts of Homer and his peers, after all “selling” is the oldest profession in the world! (You may need to think about that for a few moments)
The reality is that the sales profession has witnessed more changes in the last five years than at any time previously, and there is one single reason …. The internet – but you knew that already. What you may not have done is considered the full ramifications.
“Selling” covers such a wide spectrum of situations and industries: 98% of sales (it might even be 99%) are made in a B2C scenario – business to consumer – and this is where we are witnessing the most fatalities.
It is not just beginning to happen, it has been happening for years. It’s progress. Why employ expensive and non-performing salespeople, when consumers don’t need them?
Has anyone asked consumers if they prefer to buy online or be cajoled and “persuaded” by a salesman or woman? We can find all the information and all the advice we need from the comfort of our armchairs, and make our own informed choices, we are more informed than we ever have been – and often more informed than the so called sales “professionals” who are trying to sell to us.
I do not in any way consider myself to be a sophisticated online shopper, but neither am I a Luddite – something in between possibly – maybe a “sophisticated Luddite.” And there are now hundreds of millions of us.
So logically, if all selling eventually goes online, will we need frontline salespeople at all? It will be PC to PC (iPhone to iPhone?); no human contact or communication; a buyer’s criteria fed into a requirements section, with a solution coming out the other end?
Of course, those rules cannot apply in a B2B environment, but I do believe that marketing is about to claim the high ground in most B2B scenarios. They will take responsibility for not only lead generation, but also “presentation” That is quality of web-site design, functionality, and performance. This is the first point of contact now for all those “crazy, busy buyers” who have already almost made up their minds, and just want to place an order.
After that, new teams will be created to build brick walls around existing customers – pro-active customer care teams. This is what Sales 3.0 is all about.
Technical support functions will also continue to grow in importance, to support the other two areas, because customers want instant fixes and reliable back-up.
Those salespeople who remain, will become genuine “business consultants, strategic orchestrators and long-term allies”
The 2020 sales professional will not only be an industry expert, but also have a solid grasp of commercial issues, and as a consequence, they will speak the language – no selling involved!
At the moment, it is my perception that only 5% of the selling population fall into this category, but within five years, faced with possible extinction, a further 15% will step up, rather than perish.
It’s only a view! But it is a much considered view.
This is a clarion cry to all sales professionals everywhere …
In today’s world of selling, there is less and less room for apprenticeship. Selling is becoming an exclusive club of highly skilled professionals, where product knowledge and time management skills, for instance, are the cost of membership, not leadership.
On-going research demonstrates that today’s ‘average’ salesperson is just as effective as the high performer in explaining features and benefits effectively, relating a service or product to customer needs and closing a sale. But, above this “traditional” plateau of competence, the exceptional salesperson is busy defining the basic skills of tomorrow.
Let me leave you with this thought:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin
Whatever got you where you are today will not be sufficient to keep you there.
A rapidly changing environment is the regular background, against which organizations must develop, and we can choose to embrace the changes, adapt, and thrive, or we can resist, and risk extinction.