I was recently running a lead nurturing workshop with a client and we were discussing the fact that buyers today progress through a significant portion of their buying cycle without engaging a sales person. Both CSO Insights and Sirius Decision recently found many buyers put off contacting a vendor until the latter part of the purchasing process. With information available on the internet, and social media sites brimming with tips and advice, buyers no longer rely on sales people, or vendors, to keep them updated on trends, technologies and solutions available on the market.
So, I was asked, did I see a time when there would be no need for sales people. It’s a good question, and as a life-long sales person myself, one that I found a little shocking.
Back in the day, there were (and I suppose there still are) two general types of sales people – hunters and farmers. The hunter was given a territory and a quota and it was up to him to hit the phone, pound the doors and bring in new customers no matter what it took. The farmers had a more pastoral existence, nurturing and developing accounts and performing the gentlemanly art of up-selling and cross-selling.
Clearly, cold calling is rapidly falling from favor and there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that it’s becoming less effective. In fact, a recent survey of CIOs concluded that their number one annoyance is unsolicited cold calls. Nothing irritates a CIO more. Does that mean that the fire-breathing, back-slapping, hand-shaking sales person is a thing of the past? Well, perhaps yes.
Most buyers report that they receive little value from their first contact with a sales person – and few find being sold to a pleasurable experience. The first meeting with a vendor or sales person is now delayed as long as possible – in fact, in her book ‘eMarketing for the Complex Sale’, Ardath Ablee states that four-fifths of buyers found the seller after doing research online. And when they do engage with a vendor, buyers expect to meet a subject matter expert – someone who can answer specific questions and explain the product or solution in great detail. They are not looking for a slick presentation or two-page glossy.
Where does that leave our sales guy? The person who is the expert, the educator and the orchestrator of the sales process will still be a valuable and necessary part of the buying process. But the traditional tag-em and bag-em, swift-footed salesperson will increasingly find themselves pulled from the field and relegated to the sidelines.
What do you think? Does internet marketing signal the death of the salesman? Use the comments section to share your thoughts.
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