Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

The question is often asked, “Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?” The theory is that with the ability of the Internet to allow for massive research of technologies and products, what role does the salesperson have in the modern economy.

I will cut to the chase on my answer and then explain it later: The CFO can eliminate his sales force only if all of the following is true:

  • Your product is so simple and your relationship with the buyer is so straightforward that no Internet research is required. In other words, think of things that you buy in a mall or a grocery store (although I will explain an important caveat later in this post).
  • You have a commanding market share – probably in excess of 50%.
  • Your VP of Manufacturing and your VP of Supply Chain has told you that they cannot handle any increase in orders.

In every other case, your sales force is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

You definitely need a sales force (in fact you probably need a BETTER salesforce) if your market share is anything but first in your industry. If you are in second place (or worse) for your product, then you are already losing too many orders to your competition. Why would you want to hamper your efforts by cutting the number of people that influence others to buy your product? Obviously, your marketing department has not created a message that is so compelling that people are blindly buying your product at its asking price. Your sales force needs to take that “less than perfect marketing message” and apply it to the needs of the prospect.

Yes, the CFO may think that the sales force is not effective, but that is a question of training and probably hiring. It is not a question of need.

The job of sales is to take the message from marketing and then apply that message to the needs of the customer so that the customer satisfies an identified need. If people are not currently buying so much of your product that you cannot fulfill the orders, then you need more help clarifying that need and clarifying that your product solves the need.

Some may argue that with the effectiveness of the Internet to focus a message on a small sector of the market that a salesperson is simply not necessary. I understand the goal but have a simple question – how is that working for you today? Do you think your competitor is not watching you and achieving the same capability? Once your competition is equivalent to your ability to segment and target, what will be your advantage. Let’s be honest, the company in a world where Internet marketing can be readily copied, it will be your sales force that drives the advantage.

Another issue with allowing the Internet to educate your customer is your lack of control. Aren’t there enough stories of “alternative facts” and “fake news” to make you not want to trust the revenue of your company on what your prospect reads on the Internet. Sure, you want to put out authoritative information on the Internet regarding your company and your product but do you really trust the Internet to ONLY have your authoritative source?

There is the scenario that you cannot produce more product. The VP of Manufacturing and your VP of Supply Chain have come to the CFO and said they cannot do any more. In that scenario, I hope that the CFO fired both of them on the spot for a lack of imagination and a lack of problem-solving skills. There are always ways to make or obtain more product.

I mentioned above a caveat on consumer products. If you are in that space, you know that you sell to a “buyer” at the retailer and that retailer sells to the consumer. So while your end product may be as simple as milk, eggs, or bananas. The deliverable of your product is not that simple. Once again, when all things in your supply chain to the retailer are equal, it will be the skill of your sales team that ensures that your retailer continues to buy from you and keep the product on the shelf.

Salespeople must fine-tune the marketing message to the prospect

I discuss this in great detail my book “Eliminate Your Competition” but your marketing message will never be fine-tuned to every need of the individual buyer. This is all about creating the Bait that you need to set up your competitor to fail. You need a salesperson to respond to the ever-growing list of needs. As soon as you think you understand all of the needs, your competitor will convince the buyer of a new need that was simply unknown before. That is the ultimate goal of a salesperson. When everything else is equal, the salesperson becomes the driving force.

You may purchase my book “Eliminate Your Competition” from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

So go ahead and eliminate your sales force and then watch your competitor pass you by. There are three factors that are involved in nearly every sale (I discuss this in my book as well):

  1. The capability of the product.
  2. The capability of the company that sells the product.
  3. The capability of the sales team that presents the product to the customer.

Why leave your company at risk by eliminating one of the three legs of the stool. Yes, you can balance on two legs (even one leg) but a good hard shove from a competitor and you will find that your stool is not very sturdy and you will be flat on your back.

Photo by m01229

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