What is your reaction to that headline? If you are like many in the sales profession you probably thought – “that’s not possible in my industry.”
Unfortunately I have come to believe that the headline is actually a new reality for a large and ever-expanding list of companies and industries.
If you are in the sales profession I plead with you to read through the rest of this post – with an open mind – and then share your comments at the end.
Face it, technology has created many changes in the way we all do business. As importantly, many of these changes are in ways that we never thought possible in the selling profession. I tell my audiences that they should “use tools to tech the tedious and automate the redundant.”
We all enjoy the benefits of technology in making things easier in our daily lives. Much of what we accomplish each day is via an app on our phone, software in the cloud, or in the background of systems that we never even know exist. It is these same advances in technology that are already making salespeople obsolete as their roles are practiced today. We have not connected the dots between the impact of technology in other areas of our lives and that this same tech can cost us our jobs and our businesses.
NBC News wrote a piece back in 2012 that listed nine jobs that humans may lose to robots. Included on that list were Pharmacists, Drivers, Astronauts, and Sportswriters amongst others. If that story was written today, it would surely include salespeople.
I have been denying the facts myself, even when working with industry-changing technology that is bringing dynamic, massive change to those companies that adapt and embrace it.
Harvard Business Review wrote an article titled “The Trend that is Changing Sales”, outlining the movement from an outbound sales force to an inside sales structure. That trend has accelerated since the article was published and innovative companies are now discovering that they can eliminate their inside sales teams as well, replaced with even more technology and tools.
The pace of change is not slowing down. There are entire industries that are testing and rolling out systems that completely eliminate sales people, clerks, teachers and even lawyers.
WARNING: If you are simply responding to customer inquiries via web or email your replacement is already hired.Click to tweet
Tools like CRM that track and accurately predict when a product is needed, and how savings can be realized by different purchasing options are getting better every day. They can also learn how the customer prefers to be serviced for the ongoing business needs with the advantage that these systems never go on vacation and run 24 hours every day.
Marketing automation tools are now way more efficient and productive than you will ever be able to keep up with.
Online meetings with full HD video and audio from anywhere in the world. Factory tours being conducted via drones and robots.
Online outreach, video and re-targeting are able to laser-focus your information to the exact customers that have a need and an interest in what you are selling.
While these systems do offer tremendous productivity gains and cost savings, they are not yet able to duplicate what the most successful salespeople have always brought to the customer – the human element.
If you want to stay relevant and successful in a sales role, and to justify the premium dollars that you are being paid, double down on your education.
- Educate yourself on the newest tools and technology being deployed in your industry and in your own company. Embrace them and think creatively how you can improve your customers’ experience.
- Read up on the latest thinking from those that are actually walking in your shoes, sales consultants and authors that are living in your reality every day. Be selective about who you choose. There are truly innovative thinkers that are delivering honest, direct and blunt guidance that you can benefit from immediately.
- Improve your communication and strategic thinking skills. Books like New Sales. Simplified, Not Taught: What It Takes To Be Successful in the 21st Century That Nobody Is Teaching You and The Perfect Close are all examples of the books that you must be reading right now. No excuses.
- Attend and actively participate in online training events. Think deeply about what you are hearing and how you can use it in your efforts
- Learn the true value that your products provide to your customers. Ignite the imagination of your customers and help them see how selecting your products will improve their own performance.
Free tickets to a football game or a round of golf are not going to cut it any more. Responding to customers sitting behind your desk no longer require your presence or your commissions. If you are not willing to undertake a pro-active, aggressive campaign to improve your skills, you will be replaced by tech and automation.
What are you going to do? Will you be replaced?