“Sales” Isn’t in the Job Title, But . . .


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Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power Magazine made an astonishing prediction in March, 2011: “out of “18 million salespeople currently in the United States, fewer than 3 million will be needed by 2020.

He’s right—kind of. By 2020, there will be fewer professional salespeople. But there will be an unprecedented number of people selling.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review (CEO’s Need to Get Serious about Sales), “sales organizations can’t drive growth on their own: strategy needs to provide insights into future trends; marketing needs to provide reliable intelligence to identify where to compete; IT needs to develop technology to support remote customer interactions and self-serve capabilities; customer service needs to translate customer interactions into cross- or up-sell opportunities.”

That doesn’t sound like the Cataclysm 2.0 that Mr. Gschwandtner describes. Sure, there will be attrition. But there are already new players filling the void.

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
The Cruise Manager on the riverboat trip we took through Germany and Austria this summer told me she’s responsible for selling a specific percentage of passenger re-bookings at the end of the trip. When I told her what I do, she asked me to help her with her pitch.

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
The HVAC (Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) technician who services our home twice a year carries brochures for new furnaces, and is well-versed in the tax incentives for homeowners to upgrade to energy-saving equipment. “Whenever you decide, Mr. Rudin, give me a call. Here’s my card,” he cheerily told me just before he left.

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
My friend Ellen, a Certified Fitness Trainer in New Mexico, told me that part of her job included selling memberships to the health club where she worked. High pressure? Oh boy! The great Billy Mays would go knock-kneed. If I told you all that (goes) down, it would burn off both of your ears.

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
Apple’s retail store employees, titled Specialists, don’t receive commissions, but managers “keep close tabs on sales of warranties, known as Apple Care, and One to One, which is personal tutoring for a fee. Employees often had goals for these ‘attachments’ as these additions are called . . .” according to a recent article in The New York Times (Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay, June 24, 2012)

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
When I recently called my software service provider for technical support, the helpline representative first looked at the terms for the service plan I had just purchased, and recommended adding another six months, citing a special promotion for the upgrade. I declined, leading to his follow-up question, “What sort of problem are you experiencing today . . . ?”

Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .
It’s rare to sit in a hygienist’s chair without first hearing her spiel for additional oral cancer screening or teeth whitening.

It seems that more go-for-the-jugular selling takes place on an Internet service provider’s help line than in a thousand used-car auto malls. “While I have you on the line, do you want a Premium Plan with that?” “Sure! Why not? Super-size me!”

Will sales-enabled support personnel create customer experiences that seem more like placing a drive-thru order at McDonald’s, or taking a walk through the Kejetia market? The jury’s out.

But there are five compelling reasons behind the trend:

1. Cost reduction initiatives. Sales personnel costing your company too much money? I have a solution. Re-title, and re-purpose! Spread out the number of employees who have compensation at risk. It worked for Apple: among retail workers, Apple’s Specialists “make the least ($11.91 per hour) when compared to the amount they sell,” according to The New York Times.

2. Decreased process complexity. Many types of sales transactions aren’t terribly complicated, and can often be performed by personnel who lack traditional sales training or who don’t have sales experience.

3. Information availability at the Point-of-decision. Emerging capabilities to distribute once-siloed customer information to locations where people are deciding to buy have created an explosion in demand for people adept in facilitating decisions.

4. Increasing the number of opportunities to buy yields more revenue. When there are more people selling, there are more chances for people to buy. A few of you reading this remember when it was common to hear “You’ll need to speak with one of our sales representatives first . . .” Now it’s more usual to hear “I can complete that for you . . .”

5. Face time is so, so sweet! Hyped statistics like “Seventy percent of purchasing decisions are made online before a buyer even sees a salesperson” belie a gargantuan problem for selling anything: getting a conversation with someone who cares. “Cold calling not working for your sales team? Heck, just yesterday, your Service Tech walked in and spent over an hour with the VP-Operations and left with a $500K upgrade contract!” Sales isn’t in the job title, but . . .

By 2020 will Sales Representative, Account Executive, and Territory Sales Manager get dumped into the vocational dustbin, cast aside with other titles like Lamplighter, Elevator Operator, and Wheelwright? Will selling in the future be mostly performed by people with pablum-esque titles like Associate, Specialist, and Advisor? No—mainly because jobs rarely die off completely.

But the ascent of the hybrid salesperson, as Josiane Feigon described in a recent blog, Ten Reasons Why Field Sales Teams are Becoming Extinct, has already begun.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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