B2B SalesHere’s what you might have missed from No More Cold Calling this month.

One million B2B sales jobs in the US will be lost to self-service eCommerce by 2020, according to Forrester’s report, “The Death of the B2B Salesman.” These days, everyone’s predicting the demise of our profession and assuming automation will eventually replace us all. This is a case of incomplete information and people reading headlines only.

Yes, order-taker sales jobs will disappear. But consultative salespeople who take a strategic approach and operate in a more complex buyer dynamic will increase by 10 percent. According to Forrester, these are people who understand how to interpret balance sheets, have strong analytical skills, and are technology and data savvy. They will become more in-demand, even as millions of other sales jobs are rendered unnecessary.

2020 is just a little more than three years away. Want to remain in sales? Then it may be time for a new approach.

These referral posts from October will help you get there:

Think Robots Will Replace B2B Sales Reps?

Have B2B sales reps gone the way of CD players, the Rolodex, and analog radio—replaced by technology that gets the job done faster and better? Not so long ago clients looked to salespeople for information about our companies and products. Now, with a quick Google search and a little time on our websites and social media, they can learn all about us. Before they make contact, prospects have usually checked us out, compared pricing, read a white paper or two, listened to a webinar, and/or viewed a demo. They’ve also researched what our competitors have to offer. Some take this to mean that our prospects and clients don’t really need us anymore—that the automation of selling has made B2B sales reps irrelevant. Not so. Eliot Burdett, CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, makes a clear and compelling business case (with data) in this month’s guest post: (Read “Think Robots Will Replace B2B Sales Reps?”)

6 Simple Ways a Referral Program Eradicates Top Sales Challenges

You’re a sales leader accountable for increasing revenue, while at the same time managing your profit margins. If you’re fairly new to your company, your sales reps are a mixed bag of talent. If you’ve beaten the odds and held your role for more than 18 months, you’ve already gotten your team lined up, your prospecting strategy in place, and your goals set. However, a few critical sales challenges remain. Year after year, “the inability to generate qualified leads” tops CSO Insights’ list of B2B sales challenges. And the problem is only getting worse. In 2015, 43.6 percent of firms identified this sales execution challenge. This year, it was 53.3 percent. The lead generation problem is chronic and increasing. And it must be addressed. The solution is clear and right in front of you: a disciplined, systematic referral program with skills, metrics, and accountability for results. (Read “6 Simple Ways a Referral Program Eradicates Top Sales Challenges.”)

The #1 Reason Your Referral Program Won’t Work

Why is it that companies spend tons of money on client events, company celebrations, sales incentives, and work-life balance perks like childcare, but then they skimp on investing in building permanent, repeatable sales skills for their teams? Sure, they provide “training,” but training without reinforcement, coaching, accountability, and practice is a waste of time and money. When sales leaders ask about the duration of my referral program, I reply that it’s 90-plus days, including the initial skills building and then ongoing follow-up and practice. That’s when the pushback begins: They can’t spare that much of their sales reps’ time. Couldn’t I just do “something” in a half-day session? Of course I could. But it wouldn’t make any difference in the skills of their sales reps. It’s the same problem over and over again for B2B sales. We want it now. We’re in such a hurry to check the box that we’ve trained our sales reps that we don’t invest time into what actually makes training successful—practice and accountability. (Read “The #1 Reason Your Referral Program Won’t Work.”)

5 Questions to Guarantee Qualified Lead Generation

We chose someone else.” “We’re staying with our current vendor.” “We’re not adding any new solutions this year.” We’ve all heard those words. Devastating. What happened? It could be that sales reps neglected important activities during the early parts of the prospecting process. If their lead generation activities weren’t producing qualified leads, those sales efforts were doomed from the start. Now what should sales reps do? Regroup, learn, debrief, and change the way they approach lead generation. The only thing more frustrating than losing to a competitor is losing to a “no decision.” But this happens all the time. Sales reps spend months working with a prospect, only to end up in an indefinite holding pattern. How can you keep this from happening? According to Michael Nick of ROI for Sales, the key is asking tough questions during the discovery process. (Read “5 Questions to Guarantee Qualified Lead Generation.”)

Test Your Referral Savvy

I’m conducting a study on referrals, and I need your help. Please take my 14-question Referral I.Q. Quiz. The questions are mostly “Yes/No,” and it should take less than four minutes to complete. Rest assured, it’s completely anonymous, with no forms to fill out.

Once you’ve finished, you’ll be bounced over to a results page, where you can see the aggregated answers from everyone who has participated.

Take the Referral I.Q. Quiz now.

My goal is to get a 1,000-person sample, so please invite your network to take the quiz as well. Participation is anonymous, and I promise you won’t be added to any lists. Thanks in advance for your support!