Can you Survive without Salesmen?

[Alec Baldwin in the iconic film Glen Garry Glen Ross]

In today's economy and marketplace there is always the ever present question of whether something is too much or not enough.

What do you think about this issue?

There is the old quote of a person talking to wealthy man asking him “how much is enough” and the wealthy man answers “its never enough”.

Where does that attitude stem from?  No I'm not going to get all religious on you, But I have been thinking for a while about the systems and technologies available combined with the constant reminders that customers want to serve themselves and began to wonder how does all this factor when businesses appear to need sales staff to keep the wolves from the door.

My earlier blog, “Four books, Seven years, One message”, showed that prominent authors believed that a self-serving customer is happy customer.  But, do you think your company could operate without a sales team?

I did another article about the pros and cons of employing or contracting a marketing professional so I guess this follows the same theme.

It's a really interesting issue! Do businesses feel compelled to employ sales staff because they always have? or is it because they provide a function that no one else can?

It seems to me that there are various issues here:

Are sales people employed because a business is not able to systemise/automate and put everything online?

Or

Is the product(s) so complex that online could never handle the enquiries or prospects properly?

Where self-service is concerned, what is stopping us from being completely open and detailed in our communication with the browser. Note: a browser means simply anyone wanting to take a look at us.

I didn’t say sack them!

Whilst my position may not endear me to many sales people, I think there is significant scope to redeploy (I didn’t say sack) salespeople.  The statistics are in and it is quite clear that we have become a self serving economy – click here see the infographic about self-service.

We pick and choose just about everything we want and if something is either not competitive or available when we want it, we switch, turn off, go somewhere else or lose interest.

So when it comes to dealing with sales people our secretaries and subordinates act as our gatekeepers to keep sales people away from us, unless we have specifically requested that they come to see us.

Early Learning Syndrome!

Do we demand that salespeople attend our offices because we haven’t got the time to learn or don’t trust our staff to learn something on the companys’ behalf.  Therefore the salesman is a short-cut to assimilating information!

When we're at home and we want something, we go out and get it when it suits us, or once the pain of not having something gets too great that we have to go buy what we want or need.

At work, the acquisition of something is normally only done because there is a need that brings the business closer to either maintaining or increasing profits.

So the drivers are either emotional or essential, that said, the deciding factors don't necessarily involve a salesman, marketing yes!. But not a salesperson.

Lining up the Sale

There are different elements to the sale I know, like telesales.  But then again, apart from determining correct contact data, telesales is really about tele-appointments and then the whole issue about the gate-keepers come in to play and many of us know that it takes on average 100 calls to get 1 appointment!

Then there are the multitude of questions that get discussed face to face. I know the argument that people buy people and all about non-verbal communication and so on. But still, factors like reciprocation and appealing to a sense of urgency for example “buy now, only two days left” can only really be done online as not many people are likely to believe a salesman if he uses these tactics.  Online is great for this.

Show me the money…

Business are constantly being told how to market to prospects and now they are used to encountering:

  • Videos of products
  • Online meetings, webinars and seminars
  • Downloading white papers
  • Reading information bulletins
  • Accessing brochures
  • Using Online chat
  • Online helpdesk
  • Reading FAQs
  • Submitting Support Tickets
  • Contributing to knowledge bases
  • Subscribing to blogs
  • And comparing comparison charts

It seems quite clear that business is doing everything they can to deliver every bit of content to its customers - online.

But the question is, do we still need salespeople or at least, do we need them in the capacity that we have them now or should they be redeployed and better suited to office-based personnel who can handle inbound sales enquiries – After the customer has exhausted their online resources?.

Will the balance of costs justify losing the sales team? I.e. no large salaries, cars and expenses in favour of enabling customers to serve themselves.

Or, have we conditioned ourselves to feeling more secure with a sales team because of the lack of structured content on websites.

It’s quid pro quo! Personally I think that the time is pretty much here that sales teams can be radically reduced and that a foray into a sales territory would only happen when there is significant commitment from the customer.

Perhaps businesses should begin to review how their online and digital technology is being used in order that significant savings can be made that will affect bottom lines and whether salespeople are retired or redeployed.