I began debunking sales articles when the first ones predicting the death of selling appeared circa 2008. Back then, new digital marketing companies were telling everyone that salespeople would be replaced by inbound marketing. "Inbound is King," they said.
Later, articles predicting the end of selling became both more prolific and more specific including the certain death of:
- Solution Selling
- Cold Calling
- Consultative Selling
- Sales Process
- SPIN Selling
- and more.
If you looked closely and skeptically at who was writing the articles and who the writers worked for, you could recognize that the articles were simply a narrative to create a need for their brand new, and at the time, unproven products. Fifteen years later, their products have a place at the very top of the sales funnel. Ironically, instead of replacing salespeople they said would become obsolete, they created a need for a whole new breed of salespeople - BDRs - to follow up on all of the crappy leads generated by their inbound marketing platforms. And the very same companies who were claiming that their SaaS marketing platforms would replace salespeople actually required salespeople - lots of them - to sell their applications. Back when Hubspot was scaling its sales team, they used Objective Management Group's (OMG) sales candidate assessments to identify the right salespeople for their various selling roles.
There are two ironic byproducts of the inbound phenomenon:
- Account executives who benefit from the appointment setting provided by BDRs not only don't prospect; they don't know how!
- Most BDRs are atrocious at making outbound calls, sending emails and LinkedIn reach outs, and following up on inbound leads. They average only 1.5 meetings booked per week!
Like Kale salad, Cauliflower pizza crusts, and charred broccolini, the Death of Selling is about to become an unwelcome (to me) menu item in the form of AI.
We're seeing ChatGPT's ability to create human-like articles, essays, poems, notes and messages.
I just asked ChatGPT to write a short poem on the death of selling. Here's what it generated.
Selling, oh selling, how you've changed,
No longer can you be so deranged,
In the past, you used to deceive,
But now it's time for us to leave.
Customers now are more aware,
They're educated and they're prepared,
To be sold on anything they see,
No longer works in this industry.
The death of selling has now arrived,
And it's time for us to be revived,
We must shift our focus to serving,
Our customers' needs and preserving.
It's not about what we can sell,
But how we can help them excel,
Our job is now to listen and learn,
To provide insights that make them yearn.
For products and services that we provide,
Not because we pushed or we lied,
But because we helped them find,
Solutions that were one of a kind.
The death of selling is not the end,
But a new beginning we must contend,
To serve our customers with all our might,
And make our business soar to new heights.
Microsoft Bing has recently built AI into its search engine. It is a work in progress with built-in bias, the sometimes horrible things it writes, and its propensity for error. AI hasn't come close to living up to its potential in the sales world. Our proof is in the horrible daily bot-driven reach outs we get via email and LinkedIn messages. Some of those are driven by AI. Some are created with AI. Some are claiming to use AI. And look no further than the customer service chat boxes on virtually every website. Who hasn't been frustrated having to deal with those?
But not to worry.
Just like the threats from 15 years ago, the soon-to-be written articles predicting the death of sales will have as much predictive accuracy as their predecessors. But like vitamin D, you have built-in protection! There are many sales jobs that simply cannot be replaced. If you work in a quota-carrying sales role for an underdog, you are always and forever safe.
How do you know if you work for an underdog?
The characteristics of an underdog are:
- You don't have the lowest price. Only one company in each territory, vertical or space can claim that and since it probably isn't you, you'll have to sell value. That is insurance against obsolescence.
- Your company isn't a household name. The brand names are your industry's equivalent of Apple, Dell, HP, Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft. If that's not you, then you sell against one of them and that makes you an underdog. More insurance.
- You work for a start up and/or are selling new technology. That means you have to do proof of concepts, taste tests, show your financial staying power, and point to things you do better than the well-known companies and technologies you compete against. You know who you are and AI could never do what you do.
- You sell custom-engineered equipment or software. Do you remember OJ Simpson's defense team's acquittal line about the glove? "If it doesn't fit you must acquit." Same with custom. My quote for custom: "If it must be designed, you won't need to resign."
Don't worry about all of the coming-soon hype. Instead, do the following:
- Get yourself evaluated by the #1 Sales assessment in the world so that you have an objective understanding of your current sales capabilities in all 21 Sales Core Competencies. Your understanding should not be skewed based on your team, your company, your competition or your industry. Click here and copy and paste I would like to have myself evaluated into the comment box.
- Based on your selling strengths, weaknesses and skills, ask the sales expert who reviews the evaluation with you to recommend the sales role for which you are most well suited.
- Get some sales training and coaching to fill the gaps in the sales competencies where you don't score as high.
- Get yourself a sales position with an underdog. As long as you perform, you are safe from becoming obsolete!
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