Death of the Sales Force is Greatly Exaggerated

In a recent post, I blogged about my problem’s with Seth Godin’s article, Death of the Sales Call. Yesterday, a friend mentioned that he viewed a presentation about the Death of the Sales Force. It appeared to be based on an article originally posted in the spring of 2006 by Dr. David McMahon on the Graziadio Business Report. As the saying goes, the reports of this death are premature and greatly exaggerated.

The people that make these claims are usually not sales experts. And those who get on the band wagon, using excerpts or entire articles in their Blogs, often lack ideas of their own, choosing to make their Blogs carriers rather than originators.

In my expert opinion, the only thing dead about selling is the concept that selling, sales forces and sales calls are dying. While transactional sales haven’t depended on salespeople for years, salespeople can be used to decommoditize, differentiate and educate prospects with the goal of moving a corporate buyer to your product line or company. Then the multiple transactions that follow can be conducted via the phone or internet, using customer service people.

The theory behind the demise of the sales force is that sales will be driven by buyers, not salespeople; that buyers will buy what they want, from whom they want, when they are ready. Now there’s a news flash! How is that any different? Their theory has this process taking place without salespeople. But how does one determine what they really need? How does one learn what their real problem is? How does one figure out which company will really take better care of them? How will they come to know that one company has better expertise than another? Good salespeople, asking good, tough, timely questions, help buyers formulate these opinions.

If your company has a complex sale, an expensive product, a long sell cycle, a design build component, an engineering function, a conceptual side, or a pioneering product with a story to tell, you can’t wait for a buyer to figure everything out and call you. It must be sold. If you have products or services that people don’t think they need or want, they must be sold or nobody would ever buy what you have or switch to your company. And most importantly, if you have a product that someone can easily purchase from any one of a dozen vendors, and yours isn’t the low-price option, you have little chance of being selected unless you have some great salespeople differentiating your company from your competition.

In this highly competitive business environment, good, strong, effective salespeople are more crucial then ever before. The only thing dead about the sales force is that ineffective salespeople will no longer be able to get by on relationships and luck. All salespeople will be required to justify their existence. It’s not death of the sales call. It’s not death of the sales force. It’s sell or die.

(c) Copyright 2006 Objective Management Group, Inc.