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With all the changes that have taken place in selling over the past 10 years, it’s easy to see why some industry observers speculate that advances in technology have made the traditional salesperson obsolete. But it’s not the salesperson that’s become obsolete, experts say. It’s the old sales techniques themselves that have become obsolete because of trends that are reshaping the sales process.
The most obvious factor changing selling is the decrease in face-to-face interaction, said Shawn Naggiar, chief revenue officer of Act-On Software, a developer of marketing automation tools. The Web — along with various tools such as email marketing, social media and teleconferencing — has not only decreased face time with potential customers, but has also eliminated, or at least narrowed, the focus on one-on-one selling.
Based on the availability of new technology, it is no longer cost-effective to sell low-value items using this method. In other words, the days of selling magazine subscriptions or brushes door-to-door are behind us.
In the past, prospects would have to talk to salespeople to compare prices and features, but with the widespread availability of information today, buyers can make a buying decision without ever consulting a salesperson, Naggiar told BusinessNewsDaily. In fact, there are large portions of the sales process that might not be visible to the company. As a result, buying decisions appear to occur much more quickly today.
Salespeople whose companies implement marketing automation actually have a competitive advantage in cases like these, because they have a better idea of how prospects are interacting with the brand —visiting the website or attending a webinar, for example — earlier in the sales process.
As society’s overall customer service expectations have decreased, the customer service aspect of sales has changed as well, Naggiar said. We no longer look for a manager to help us in the grocery store — instead, we’re willing to compromise service for lower prices. This transition toward commoditization has a dramatic effect on product differentiation and traditional selling, which was often dependent on highlighting the unique features of a product, is affected as a result.
While it’s true that sales is changing, it is far from a dying profession; it's an evolving one as sales professionals take advantage of new technologies to aid in the selling process. These new tools allow sales professionals to weave together different business processes that touch the customer — including customer relationship management. This gives sales professionals a better idea of who their sales leads are and how ready they are to buy.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.