Way back in 1999 as the national sales manager of a major Australian telco, I sat in on a presentation on what I was told would be the future of sales. According to what was presented that day, the future for any sales person was gloomy at best. The internet was going to revolutionise the way we transacted business. Regardless of whether it was B2C, B2B or any combination, we were to be replaced by online platforms that would allow people to buy everything from cutlery to cars, books to buildings.
Fifteen years later and the sales person is as important to any business as ever. In fact the internet has delivered sales people tools that help them be more valuable to both their companies and their clients. And make them more successful.
While statistics can be manipulated to make any argument look good, consider the following while you ponder the future of the sales person.
- Today, a prospect is as far as 70% into their buying cycle before engaging a sales person (various sources)
- 62% of US adults who use social media say this has no influence on purchasing decisions. 30% say some and only 5% say it has a great deal (Gallup survey)
- Salespeople who use social media professionally are 79percent more likely to achieve their quotas than those who don’t (Aberdeen)
- Salespeople who include social selling in their activities outperformed their counterparts who don’t by 73percent, and they also exceeded their quotas 23percent more often (Aberdeen)
- 90 percent of C-level executives don’t respond to cold calls or e-mail blasts, but “potential customers are surprisingly responsive to short messages sent via social media.” (HBR)
- The number of people engaged in sales in the USA in 2012 is roughly the same as in 1992, and this number is likely to be much higher as the use of the title ‘sales person’ is not as common as we see more BDMs, Account Managers and Associates.
What this tells me is that sales people are not being replaced by the internet and other online tools. Clients are not replacing sales people with the internet but are using it to be better prepared for engagement. Now, your prospective clients are ‘hanging out’ on the internet. They are researching your company, your products, your competitors and you.
The savvy sales persons need to do the same; using online resources to monitor potential clients and competitors, gather intelligence and ‘hang out’ doing old-fashioned networking in a new way. Good sales people aren’t afraid of the net and they will not be replaced by the net – they see it for what it is, a great tool to help them be more successful.