Do you remember those radio and TV ads: “Work from home; No selling required!”? I sure do. I still wonder why precluding the sales function is perceived as a positive message.
Popular media revels in the demonization of the sales profession. From the sitcom WRKP in Cincinnati’s sleazy Herb Tarlek, through Peewee Herman’s disgust at a “SALESMAN!” ringing his doorbell, right through to Leonardo DeCaprio’s portrayal of the Wolf of Wall Street, we are barraged with images that condition us to reject the worth of the world’s second oldest profession. Come to think of it, don’t practitioners of the world’s first oldest profession need to be sales-oriented as well?
Concurrent with the stigmatization of selling, comes the proliferation of self-service options. Gas stations, ATM’s, retail check-outs, self-publishing, even US Customs kiosks and medical advice have all been automated to eliminate human interaction. There’s an app for that (and for everything else, it seems).
Just as the Industrial Revolution eliminated manufacturing jobs, so too the Information Age continues to impact the workforce. Fortunately, sales positions don’t yield to mechanization as easily as clerical jobs do. Sure, retail has its “shelf-talkers”, and B2B its “silent salesmen”, but only non-robots can deliver insights and build consensus.
It seems as though everyone perceives themselves an expert, shallow-schooled by smart phones, social networks and the narrow group that they interact and identify with.
Salespeople are tasked with providing a broader and deeper education of product features and benefits. Performance based compensation ensures that they are incentivized to eliminate ignorance.
Why then do we struggle to resonate with potential customers? Why do we lack the engagement so necessary to teach?
Can we blame complacency? Are lazy marketers to be indicted for their penchant for relying on collateral, printed catalogues, price lists and poorly planned and/or executed trade shows?
Automating processes might lead to your Blue Ocean Strategy by getting customers to buy on autopilot. You might find The Holy Grail of business – a value proposition that makes it too hard for your clients to switch to your competitor. More likely, though, a sales professional will lead the way to higher volumes and profits.
No selling required: that’s why there’s always the need for a salesman.
Editor’s Note: This was originally posted in 2014
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