Yes, we’re nearing the death of the salesperson. The day of the fast-talking, door-knocking, drink-buying Salesperson is approaching obsolescence. Old-fashioned 20th-century selling methods are outdated. Consumer’s access to information. People don’t want to be sold—they want to be advised. It’s the death of the salesperson and the birth of the consultant.

Consumers no longer need a salesperson to sell them a product when they can find out what they need to know online. Companies that hold onto outdated titles and tactics will be left behind.

Death of the Salesperson

Consumers Check Online Before Contact

Studies show that most consumers vet businesses online before considering a product or service, even if they plan to go to a brick-and-mortar outlet. Not only that, but shoppers shop. They compare products, prices,  and read reviews.

Whether B2B or B2C, prospects can find the answers to their questions and solutions to their problems online, and if they can’t find them on your website—they’ll move on to the next. They seldom need Salespeople to educate them. However, they may seek advice. To offer good advice, representatives need to become consultants, which begins by understanding the customer’s problems and recommending the best solutions for their needs.

People Don’t Have Time 

In the 1980s, I managed a home remodeling sales team that spent, on average, three hours at consumers’ homes. Although this was an award-winning team, can you imagine spending three hours with any salesperson? Today, most people don’t have that kind of time and don’t need a complete product demonstration and education. For example, our TV went out. My wife went online, read reviews about brands and models, chose one, and then priced it. We picked a local retailer not because they were the lowest price but because they offered the service we wanted. We were 90% done before we walked in the door.

If you’re a B2B and think this doesn’t hold true for your business, think again. More than a decade ago, in a 2012 Harvard Business Review study, The end of solution sales shared this, “In fact, a recent Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier. ” This study may be 12 years old, but I doubt the numbers have decreased.

People Want to Collaborate, not Negotiate

Consumers, whether B2B, B2C, or not-for-profit, don’t want to be sold. Most people don’t want a product forced down their throats, so a price negotiation can begin. More often than not, people want to work together towards mutual benefit. They want partners, not salespeople.

Where Does Change Begin?

It starts with titles. That may sound funny, but what someone is called has much to do with how they see themselves and how others categorize them. Eliminate Salesperson as a title and, depending on your business, replace it with Consultant, Business Development Manager, Technical Representative, or Product Adviser.

The next step is to teach the consultants to consult. They must understand most prospects have done their homework, or they wouldn’t be talking with you. The consultant’s job is to find out what problems the prospect has and how they believe your product and service will serve them.

The Salesperson of Tomorrow

The death of the salesperson. “Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there’s no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or to give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine.” ― Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman.

If I asked you to describe a salesperson, would you picture a fast-talking huckster more interested in moving their products than helping customers? Unfortunately, that Salesperson is still out there, but the tide is changing, and the Salesperson who depends on a “smile and shoeshine” will find it progressively more challenging to connect with buyers.

Who is the Future Salesperson?

  • Consultant – The productive Salesperson of tomorrow will be a true consultant focused first and foremost on the customer’s needs. They will be experts on products and industry. They will resemble today’s paid consultant more than yesterday’s Salesperson.
  • Collaborator – Future salespeople and customers will collaborate to maximize product usefulness. Some products will be created specifically to solve problems, while other products will be shared with customers to beta test and brainstorm potential uses.
  • Customer Service Advocate – With customers having full access to millions of potential clients on social networks, nothing will be more important than keeping them happy.
  • Analytic advisor – Salespeople who can analyze big data and offer strategies to capture market share will be in demand.
  • Product developer – The best salespeople will work directly with an R&D team to develop products specific to the customer’s needs.
  • Educated in sales – Many salespeople now and in the future will hold degrees in professional sales.
  • Sales Scientist – In the past, the power of persuasion and the psychology behind sales, combined to create the art of sales. In the future, the ability to use the scientific method will be critical to the science of sales.
  • Partner – Salespeople will develop partnerships working side-by-side with customers, participating in strategy meetings, educational training, and product roll-out.

She’s Not Your Father’s Car Salesman

Personality profiles using gregariousness as a benchmark for sales ability are outdated. It’s the death of the salesperson. Whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert will be less of an indicator of sales potential than empathy, problem-solving ability, and analytical thinking.

“The only thing you’ve got in this world is what you can sell.” ― Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman.

Mr. Miller the world has changed. The essential talent for tomorrow’s Salespeople will be their ability to help.

Adapt or Be Eaten

Adapting to the current business climate can be your business’s life or death. Understanding and meeting the needs of your target audience is the key to successful consulting. It’s not the other way around. The world is changing fast, and those who don’t adapt will be swallowed up. “In the past, business success was all about size: The large eat the small. Today, business success is all about speed: The fast eat the slow.” — Huffington Post, Daniel Burris: Profiting from the speed of business. Are you going to eat or be eaten, are you ready for the death of the salesperson?

Are You in Sales Management?

So, are you leading people or managing projects? Do you set goals based on activities to continue, eliminate, or improve or do you strictly look at the results? Do you believe one sales strategy fits all your clients and all your sales team? If so, you’re walking the streets I paved, and those streets lead to disappointment. The good news is if you recognize these behaviors in yourself, you can change. I did. I eventually became a highly effective sales manager and so can you. This workbook is the place to start. The New Sales Managers Workbook