According to Selling power Magazine, Gartner Research has analyzed the market and has projected that we will downsize from twenty million salespeople today to four million by 2020.
Are you interested in being one of the four million left?
This projection is based on industry trends and the growing sophistication of software applications (to deliver knowledge) and the continuing acceleration of computer power.
At a recent Sales2.0 conference, Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power asked the audience to raise their hand if they have ever purchased anything from Amazon.com. Almost everyone raised their hand. Then he asked “How many of you have ever spoken to an Amazon salesperson?” Nobody raised their hand.
The exercise demonstrates that a lot of products are being sold through automation. Much of today’s on-line sales activities are in the Business to Consumer arena (B2C) and many of those products fall into a commodity classification. I used to think that as the items price increased, there would be more need for a salesperson. However, I just purchased a new car directly on the web and only dealt face to face with the people who write up the paperwork and push add-on sales. So my higher price theory was shot.
As technology improves, more and more products will be sold automatically in the Business to Business (B2B) arena. It’s already happening in many acquisition areas like office supplies and some forms of printing, computer purchases, etc. Many state governments and large corporations have initiated on line requisitioning where an RFQ is published and the best respondent (best price, highest quality) can win the bid and the buyer and seller never talk face to face.
So who will need the four million salespeople that are left? Many of them may be situated in call centers rather than outside sales positions. The balance will be working for companies where the buyer cannot capture the knowledge or comfort required to make a good buying decision on their own.
An example is in the services arena. A company implementing a sophisticated software solution (CRM for instance) may need assistance in differentiating between competitive offerings and require sales assistance. Or they may decide on a specific solution on their own, but need a professional services supplier to help them implement the software and in that case they will want to talk with a very knowledgeable salesperson that can make them feel safe and comfortable with the supplier.
To some extent very complex (highly engineered) products will require salespeople as well. I don’t see countries and companies buying Boeing aircraft on the web in the near future.
So the salesperson of the future will need to be a “knowledge broker” more than anything else. The competencies required for this position will include:
Of general business
Of the prospect’s business
Of the industry
Of the competition
* Questioning and Listening Skills
* Strategic Thinking
* Conviction, Confidence and Integrity
So, if you want to be one of the remaining four million, you need to work to grow the above skills, work continually to increase your education and begin looking for sales positions and opportunities with companies whose products are complex and hard to sell. You have my best wishes for success.