Will Commissioned Salespeople Disappear?

“Today’s customer can easily research an entire marketplace in minutes….They don’t need someone to connect them with products anymore. What they do need is to be engaged, surprised and delighted on their own terms.”

The quote above is from Brian de Haaff, the CEO of a software startup who says he’ll never hire another salesperson. From his perspective, the “traditional sales role is endangered.”

The research backs him up. A new Forrester study predicts that of the 4.5 million B2B sales jobs in existence today, “one million jobs will be net displaced by 2020.”

No doubt, customers are changing — they’re farther into their decision-making process by the time they come into contact with sales. But does that mean salespeople are irrelevant?

I don’t think so. In fact, I believe this era of customer transformation is a unique opportunity. Great salespeople are actually more relevant and valuable than ever before. Consultative salespeople are finding ways to provide new information, offer additional value and help customers think differently about the future. They’re experts about their products, industries, competition and customers. And they are well-positioned to thrive in 2015.

Customers’ expectations around the sales experience are changing. They don’t need a middleman anymore, and any sales pro who isn’t actively delivering huge value might be out of a job sooner rather than later. We’re entering a period of time when average is officially over.

A short time ago, average effort could produce average results. Today, “average” can put you out of business.

How Salespeople Can Stay Relevant

To win in the era of the customer, you have to be remarkable consistently.

In every interaction with every prospect or customer, you should audit:

  1. How did I add value?
  2. How will I be remembered?

Your customer already knows as much about your industry, products and competition as you do. So, think about what you can contribute. If you’re not contributing additional insight and participating in the solution design, are you just getting in the way?

Customers are looking for expert partners who can help them evolve their own thinking. Those are high expectations. The only way salespeople can meet those expectations is to embrace continuous learning.

Are you a little bit better today than you were yesterday?

It’s worth considering. I credit most of my own success to my commitment to learning. Learning, studying, researching, evolving — it’s hard work. But it’s the work required to compete and win in 2015.

In this SlideShare, I outline the six things every sales leader needs to be doing to move their teams forward and stay relevant.

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