At the start of every year, I read a handful of articles online predicting “The Death of The Salesperson”. E-commerce, the internet and an increasingly globalized world have many predicting the death of the salesperson. 2016 they say, is the year that we finally get rid of those pesky salespeople.
This isn’t a new thought though. In fact, we’ve been predicting “the death of the salesman” for more than 50 years.
In the 1962 book “The Vanishing Salesman,” author E.B. Weiss wrote about the “new age of self-selection and self-service” and how pre-selling, branding, and advertising would eliminate the need for traditional salesmen.
1962! Clearly we are grossly underestimating the role of sales in business.
However, I understand why these pundits think the way they do. It’s logical that many industries won’t require salespeople moving forward, as the internet, self-service and e-commerce replaces the role of the salesperson for many products and services.
However, what most people don’t understand is that - as sales becomes obsolete in one industry - a new, often technology-driven industry pops up, and requires a sales force to push their new product into a new market of customers.
During the late 90’s, Office Supply companies selling printers, scanners and various other supplies drastically reduced their sales forces as the internet made it easier to market and sell their products. Thousands of sales jobs across the US and the world were lost.
However, during the same time, companies in new industries such as Google, Facebook and Salesforce.com filled that void, hiring thousands of salespeople to sell their new technology to a new market of customers.
It’s worth noting that between 1995 to 2013, the total number of B2B sales jobs in the US has not shrunk, despite digitization, e-commerce, the internet and increasing globalization.
I’m confident salespeople are not going anywhere, at least not for the next 50 years.