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Think Sales Reps Will Become Obsolete? Think Again

sales repThe most effective sales techniques don’t require a device.

You’ve heard it. Television will kill radio. Video killed the radio star. And social media and the internet will eliminate the time-consuming, face-to-face aspect of sales.

Um, no.

Marketing automation, CRM, social media, and other technology tools enable sales reps to sell more efficiently and cost effectively. But the most powerful tool in your sales toolbox is still you!

Man vs. Machine: No Contest in Sales

What’s the best way to reach, communicate with, develop, and sell to your key audience? If you think back over your most successful business deals, I bet face-to-face, person-to-person, high-touch communication—a phone call, a video conference, or (best of all) an in-person meeting—accelerated your sales process time and time again.

Yes, we’ve all heard the predictions that technology will eventually replace sales reps. Buyers can now learn everything they need to know about a company online, so why should businesses continue employing expensive sales forces?

Because machines still haven’t made us obsolete, and I doubt they ever will.

My colleague, Jason Jordan, makes this case in his fantastic article, “Salespeople vs. the Internet: Who Is Winning?” He writes:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1999 there were 12,938,130 workers in sales and sales-related occupations the United States. Impressively, that number represented 10.2% of the total employed workforce.

In May of 2014 (the most recent data available), the BLS asserted that there were 14,248,470 such workers employed in the U.S. or 1,310,340 more than there were 15 years earlier. This total now accounts for 10.5% of the U.S. employed — a slight increase from 1999. 

If technology was supposed to replace us, why are sales reps actually growing in number? Jordan offers two reasons:

Rather than reduce the power of salespeople, [the Internet] made salespeople more powerful than before. Internet-enabled CRM allowed salespeople to sell more efficiently and effectively anywhere in the world … social networks gave sellers unprecedented insights about their customers and prospects …

But more fundamentally, the doomsday criers dramatically underestimated the resilience of the sales force. I would argue that sales is the most in-tune and dynamic function inside any company. It feels shifts in the landscape before other parts of the organization, and it reacts to the marketplace the best. It has the strongest motive to succeed, and it adapts to change the fastest. 

(Read the rest of Jordan’s article for more on why sales reps still have job security.)

One More Reason

Everything Jordan writes about the resilience of sales teams is completely on point. But there’s another key reason technology hasn’t rendered our profession obsolete.

The most effective sales techniques begin and end with relationships—getting to know our prospects and their businesses, asking questions to uncover their real needs, offering insights and expertise, and suggesting tailored solutions to their challenges.

Technology can make salespeople more efficient, and it certainly makes us more informed about our prospects and their companies. But it doesn’t help us make real connections. That requires meaningful interaction between two human beings. Always has and always will.

For more on balancing technology with relationship-building in sales, get your copy of my book, Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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