Why the web is making salespeople more, not less, important

Contrary to what the pundits say, the web is making salespeople more, not less, important.

In December 2012, we looked at the 12 sales trends that will drive 2013 and released a brief summary of each trend. This month we are focusing on the ‘instant access to solutions’ sales trend.

The media is guilty of creating the propaganda around the demise of selling – propaganda that is not true. Too often a headline reports that buyers are turning to the internet to do their shopping, leaving salespeople and companies out of the loop.

While it is true that about 70% of the purchase process in the B2B arena is being made before calling in salespeople, that’s only because salespeople are so busy selling that they don’t give their customers a chance to buy.

According to the media, the now well-informed and web-enabled society of buyers  turn to the internet to research products and then buy them online. The shift, some reports indicate, will make salespeople less relevant. However, it turns out that the opposite is true and companies are hiring and training more salespeople than ever before.

What the web has done is create a new set of expectations among customers.

Today customers expect much more from salespeople. They expect salespeople to have an expert’s view of their business, act as a manager of some crucial parts of their process and be effective at protecting the customer’s interests within the sales organisation. They also expect salespeople to help them sift through what is rapidly becoming an information overload.

While the web has given buyers more choice, access to more alternatives and freedom, it has also flooded them with often useless and unqualified information. Smart customers are turning to salespeople to help them identify the right solutions. But there is more. The web provides instant access to information and buyers expect salespeople to be equally responsive.

Salespeople and companies that are not easily accessible, that take too long to respond or to deliver, are going to find themselves at the back of the line, with the more agile, responsive and nibble-footed salespeople and sales organisations taking the lion’s share of the business.

Sales forces that aren’t equipped to be mobile are going to find opportunities slipping away. And although there was a time when buyers would wait days or even weeks for a proposal or quotation, they now expect these in hours. While they were prepared to wait weeks and months for delivery of their orders, that has been cut down to hours and days.

The reality is simple. If companies argue that they can’t meet the apparently unrealistic expectations of their customers, those same customers will move on, find suppliers who will deliver and give them the business.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.


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