People society includes elements of sale from the moment we were able to catch or grow more then we could eat. But sales as part of business community was developed slowly and gain momentum with introduction of money and was developed into organised structures in 19. century.
NCR company started to introduce sales manuals and structured approaches with sales phases and objection handling at end of 19. century.
Sales profession had bad reputation since middle ages and time of Wild, Wild West was time when sales persons used tricks and stories to sell, sell, sell. But in 20. century ideas started to circulate, that sales professions should act ad trusted advisors and trusted based selling was introduced.
So based on new approach to build sales network not only subject matter experts but also trusted advisors, 20. century saw a bunch of new methodologies introduced, with some variations but basically all the same using questions, consultative selling and buyer guiding into what buyer believed his decision to buy products/solutions that will solve their problems.
But what is role of subjects matters experts and trusted advisors are not needed any more…then where would sales persons be able to bring their value into buying process?
New technologies that are our there today and can be perceived as threat leading into diminished role of sales professionals today:
- Predictive analytics
- Content marketing
- Social engagement
- Marketing automation
- Active lead management in CRM
As Graham Hawkins is saying in his The Future of the Sales Profession: “What determines vulnerability to automation is not so much whether the work concerned is manual or white-collar, but whether or not it is a routine.” Probably it is hard to acknowledge, but a lot of B2B sales activities fold under above description, so hence there could lie an answer about development of B2B sales.
With all these changes of business environment, where face to face high cost sales approach is starting to become more and more burden to business, we can see new categories of sales approaches coming in. Inbound marketing, inside sales and e-commerce as some of them.
We can tie those changes to development of industries, where face to face sales approach in under strong pressure in maturity phase of industry (when industry is over introduction and growth phase) where margins are falling, competitions is increasing and pressure on high value, low cost solutions is at its high.
All these changes in business landscape with new business models being able because of technology advancement is main reason why we are now entering into area of sharing economy and growing population of mobile workforce, that is actually coming together not because of company connected activities but rather project connected activities. In this era sales, that was traditionally responsible for all stages of sales process from identifying to closing, is now giving some of the responsibilities to marketing, especially in early phases where automation tools inside marketing can bring value differentiations between companies. Sometimes when customer reaches to sales person they are already very deep into buying process. All this is leading from vendor push to customer pull model.
All this changes are leading into diminished role of sales persons and eventually in depletion of their numbers. Only the strongest will be left, they will serve customers not as a sales persons but as trusted advisors. They will have clear goals where they want to position them self in the sales process, they will shift their involvement late into the process, they will develop special knowledge about solutions that will address customer business needs in the most appropriate ways and because they will have strong inside into customer business, they will bring business value not only by proposing solutions based on their company products, but they will also help customers move into desired business directions, so that customer business challenges will be addressed properly.