The Death Of Selling–Deja Vu All Over Again


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“Tis the season to be talking about the “Death Of Sales.” which I’ll shamelessly exploit. As the year ends, I’m seeing a lot of blogs forecasting the death of sales. However, it seems that we’ve had the discussion, over and over and over….. Other than being great blog fodder, I sometimes wonder why we continually speculate about the death of sales and selling. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on the part of the poor victims of sales people.

The profession of selling can be traced back millenniums. It’s closely related to the second oldest profession, I’m sure at the time, there were lots of folks predicting or wishing for the death of sales. More recently, we can probably find someone proclaiming the death of sales with major technology and social transitions. I’m sure when the car displaced the horse and carriage, the demise of the traveling sales person was predicted. After all, in one day, a person could call on more customers, fewer sales people were needed…… Or with the invention of the telephone—a sales person could now call customers, they would travel less, fewer face to face meetings…… Or the rise of modern advertising and commercials, or direct marketing, or voicemail, or PC’s, or email, or social media and social networking. I’m certain without a whole lot of research at each of these and other major social and technological transitions, we will have found dire predictions about the death of sales.

Why are we so focused on talking about the death of sales, shouldn’t the conversation really be about the transformation of professional selling? That’s what happens with other jobs and positions. I’m sure the creation of things like FASB rules and other accounting standards didn’t cause accountants to talk about the death of accounting, but rather the transformation of their profession. With the rise of computing, software tools, simulation and so forth, engineers focused more on how these tools would change the practice of engineering. And with the legal profession……. well maybe more talk about the death of the legal profession is merited.

Progress and growth is about change. Change is about transformation and adaptation. Not too many years ago, there was no such thing as “inside sales.” Today, inside sales represents a major means of reaching, engaging and supporting customers. The rise of inside selling created new roles, jobs and opportunities for sales professionals. As customers change the way they buy, as social networking and social selling rise, there are tremendous opportunities for selling. There will be new roles, new jobs, new opportunities for those of us engaged in professional selling. Sure there may be a shift in the types of sales jobs, perhaps in the number (though I tend to think it’s a growing profession). I’m certain, if not on an absolute basis, certainly on a percentage basis, the number of door to door sales people is far less than 60 years ago. However, in the same time span, the growth of other sales functions has skyrocketed (take my example of inside sales during the same period).

Talking about the death of a profession is fun and provocative. And there are far too many cheering the projected demise of professional selling. Like the dinosaurs, if we don’t transform and change, we will become extinct. However, the more difficult and challenging conversation is not about the death of selling but of the transformation of selling. The profession of selling will continue to grow and thrive. How we sell, how we engage our customers in different ways, how we eliminated the boundaries between marketing and selling, how we create value for both our customers and our own organization, the role of the sales person in growing business and helping customers manage changing their own businesses are elements of the conversation we need to be having.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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