At a recent Selling Power event the keynote speaker, Gerhard Gschwandtner, posted slides with the following stats:

  • By 2020, over 85% of the transactions between businesses will be completed without human intervention. (Source: Gartner Group)
  • Buyers will have completed 60% of the info gathering prior to speaking with a salesperson (Source: Sales Executive Board)
  • Of the 18 million sales people in 2011, only 3.6 million will be needed by 2020 (no source, but possibly a derivative of the Gartner Group stat)

Do these alarming statistics suggest the death of a salesman is on the horizon? Not necessarily. Although they do point to some major changes that will change the way a sales person will have to operate to stay relevant.

Because of the Internet and a host of web 2.0 tools available today, customers can do more of their research and buying processes online, engaging the sales person much later in the process. Technology is also ushering in an era where marketing can now support more and more of the traditional sales funnel activities, and do more of the preliminary selling. As marketing supports more “top of the funnel” activities, there will need to be a smooth hand-off to sales people (with as much organized data as possible) to help enable conversion and mitigate risk. This change means as sales people touch a smaller and smaller slice of the buying funnel, they are required to be more productive, customer-centric and take a more consultative approach. The key is to sell value, not the product. That is where the real value of the salesman comes in during sales conversations today.

In most industries the products are more alike than different (commodities), and the only way to differentiate yourself in your market space is by clearly and pro-actively articulating real value to your customers. In many instances, that will take a well trained salesperson armed with the right data, intelligence and tools to have timely and relevant conversations to stimulate a closed deal. Sales enablement technologies are making it easier, more productive and more efficient for sales personnel to engage the customer in a way they want – via the Internet. Technology features like pre-built Spotlights help package sales materials in a way that connotes value and encourages interaction, while giving sales grab-and-go efficiencies to free up time for more selling activities. Advanced tracking and alerts can notify the sales person when a prospect has viewed the Spotlight, what they looked at, and when it happened – arming sales with intelligence they’ve never had before to pinpoint the lead’s pain points and frame the value solution around it.

Remember, even in the age of the Internet, it is the sales process and value creation that really counts when it comes to the relevancy of sales personnel. What this means is that well into the future, the most important role in most commercial organizations will still be the salesperson. The skills will need to be sharper, technology will be required to cater to the engagement style of the buyers, but the role won’t go away for those industries where you’re selling value.

Interested in ways you can increase the value of your sales personnel now? Explore RO Innovation’s sales enablement solution today.

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney is the Founder & CEO of RO Innovation. His passion for helping salespeople excel in all aspects of B2B selling, especially where customer references are involved, was the reason he started the company. His desire for helping others succeed flows through in the expert thought leadership he provides the industry, his customers and his employees.