Is Sales A People Business?

I have always been a strong believer in people doing business with people. Yet I see sales professionals being replaced by an online experience at a staggering pace, where the recommendation of a trusted source exceeds the value of a B2B sales professional.

Today we buy more things online at an increased financial risk
Several years ago as a consumer I would only buy stuff online of which the value was less than $100. This was the risk I was willing to take. Today my comfort level has been raised significantly. For example my entire suite of business software, valued at a total of $10k is now licensed online. For me $2.5k is still a lot of money yet I have no problem subscribing to the Adobe software suite.

It’s not about a buying experience, it’s about getting a problem solved
I have noticed that I am not looking for a ‘buying experience’. I am not looking for a sales person in a Best Buy store to educate me, nor an online person at Amazon to help me make a buying decision. I am looking for getting my problem solved and preferably as quickly as possible. If I can get my problem solved for an equal or lower price, without any help, right from the comfort of my living room I will not hesitate and click buy.

What is the value of the sales person?
For me the value of a personal interaction is less about helping me make the right decision and more about reducing the risk of buying the wrong solution. As a consumer and enterprise user I am used to educate myself and make an informed decision. Thus the sales person has started to play a decreasing role in the information process. The increasing role they play is to help me after the sale, to deploy and become successful. In return for successfully using a product I will gladly buy more and share my experience as a reference.

Power of a recommendation
The recommendation of a trusted source exceeds the value an average sales person offers in the process.
ASK YOURSELF: A CTO at a 100 person start-up has made a bad purchasing decision. He sits in e-staff confronted with the consequences of his decision. What is worse for him? That he made the wrong decision based on a) diligent research and being outsold by a sales pro, OR b) following the recommendation of his CEO (board member, peer etc.) who successfully used the service at another company.

For every great sales experience there are many bad ones
When we say sales is a people business we talk about how great it is to do business with that superstar you once did business with. The superstar that spends time with you, educated you, helped you process the order, and stood side-by-side with you when the system launched at 2am (true story). However in B2B only 1 out of 4 experiences with a sales professional is a great one (I am kind). In most cases the sales person never has used their own product, has hardly attended any training, and merely is able to quote speeds & feeds etc. In the business we refer to these folks as talking leaflets. And there are many talking leaflets out there. These talking leaflets are driving more and more clients every day to buy online at a higher risk.

Future of Sales is Marketing & Customer Success
Recently I was on a panel at the sales 2.0 conference in London where Dr. Jonathan Farrington of Top Sales World ( made the prediction that within five years only the Creme De la Creme of front line sales professionals (20%) will still be around. Flying home from London this thought kept me awake. If sales is to be replaced by the internet it is marketing and customer success that will have to step-up, creating and fulfilling demand, is that even possible?

The buying factors
Customers big and small buy a product/service to solve a problem, not to have a great buying experience that will help a salesperson meet his quota.

Today I buy based on the following factors;
Do my online research, shortlist 2-3 options
Obtain recommendations from trusted sources, with an emphasize on users
Buy it in the most convenient way
At the lowest possible price/risk (no pay, no cure)
We have to model marketing, sales and customer success along these buying factors.

Future Of Sales Is NOW
For every online tool clients use to find the right solution, we are offered the same tool to outline our solution. The Future Of Sales will be determined by Sales’ ability to embrace the tools available and modernize their sales skills to meet the needs our clients are expressing today. Other businesses that relied heavily on ‘personal touch’ such as job search, personal training, and even dating services give us an indication of the consequence of no-action. Start modernizing your sales team NOW with small yet swift steps. When you are ready to take the first step, click here.

By Jaco Van Der Kooli