Is Selling Dying? (“Yes it is!”) (“No it’s not!”)

There is an interesting discussion going on in the sales profession blogosphere about whether selling is dying.  What it’s really discussing is “will we need salespeople in the future and what will their role be”.  

I believe at some product levels that we don’t necessarily need sales personnel, but at higher levels, we will always need them.

I remembered discussing this topic years ago. So I and went back a researched some of my writing and the headline article in my very first newsletter (Spare on Sales and Marketing) was “Selling is Dying”.  That was back in July/1993, so apparently the question has been on our minds for a long time.

The closing line in my article back then was “for selling in the nineties (1990’s) the name of the game is how do we deliver the most knowledge (added value) to our customer.”

Will all of this affect your company?  Absolutely! If you understand what is happening you may find a way to reduce or redirect your costs.

If you don’t understand, you will not be able to maximize your sales revenue.  Usually the opportunity is found in understanding of where your products and services fall on a commodity vs. full service continuum. It is tempting to chart the item cost vs. sales need, but we have not completed our research here.

There may also be a terrific opportunity to begin aligning your sales and marketing and customer intimacy roles.

As computers, the internet and social media continue to expand; the customer has more and more access to information and can find out more than he ever could before without interacting directly with a salesperson.  As technology delivers more and more “knowledge” the salesperson’s role must either diminish or change.

Buying cars used to be an ugly process of visiting dealerships to get enough information from high pressure salespeople to make an intelligent buying decision.

I bought my last car over the internet. I needed a sales associate to finalize the paperwork and demonstrate some features after the sale. His real value was simply making me feel comfortable with his dealership.

We have seen a similar transition in how we buy computers, TVs and cell phones, etc. When the knowledge can be delivered without human interaction, the salespersons role is diminished.

I recently heard a presentation in which the speaker said “if the person you are calling can get the same information online, it is not time to talk with them” I disagree in that I think you can start building a relationship while he is doing his research.

There are a number of industries where the customer will need additional help in his research and decision making process and there will always be a role for the salesperson in these situations. The role may become that of the differentiator or negotiator.

Industries where you are selling professional services or highly technical products will always need salespeople. Often in these industries there is a technical consultant available to assist the salesperson and the customer in understanding what he is investing in.

So, we are really still discussing the question of  “what’s the value the salesperson brings”  I believe the salesperson’s task at hand is to be become much more informed about the prospect’s business and industry and their strategies. Then the salesperson needs a full understanding of the potential his product or service offers to assist those strategies.

The discussion leads further into the role of sales and alignment and eventually to the much ignored area of customer intimacy, but I will leave that to a future post or two.

For an interesting read, I suggest you go to Jonathon Farrington’s BLOG   and search for “Megatrends”

Good Selling!


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