… and why that’s not bad, according to HubSpot’s Brian Signorelli.
Brian Signorelli is the Director of the Global Sales Partner Program at HubSpot. He knows better than most just how much sales has changed over the last decade. Before he rose through the ranks at HubSpot, where he started as an Account Executive in 2012, Brian was COO at an early-stage startup and an analyst at the Corporate Executive Board. He has witnessed technology shift the landscape, and he’s been a part of that shift.
Watch any classic sales film—Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, Wolf of Wall Street—and you’ll see the classic sales stereotype. It’s that fired-up, vicious, always-closing persona that buyers dread in real life because they’ve seen it play out on the big screen or they’ve had some pushy sales experiences here and there.
But there’s an evolution happening in the sales world. Forrester predicted that 1 million B2B sales jobs—or 1 out of every 5 B2B salespeople—would be “net displaced” by 2020 because of the public’s trend toward self-service in e-commerce. Basically, people don’t want to buy from people when they can buy from websites and apps and smart technology. That figure can be pretty daunting to anyone in sales, but it’s most alarming to salespeople who traditionally act as the “order-takers”—selling relatively simple products in a simple sales environment. They’re the ones most likely to be replaced by bots and AI robots in the next few years.
But I’m optimistic. Sales is still a good place to be, if you’re willing to adapt. New technology creates new buyer needs and new challenges for salespeople to overcome. In that way, automation can be seen as a threat or an asset, depending on how salespeople respond to it. The ones that come out on top will act more like consultants than traditional sellers, and they’ll develop a far different set of skills, like selling to multiple decision-makers and solving much more complex business challenges.
While the order-takers and explainers see their jobs gradually disappear, consultants will navigate the new industries technology creates—and become better salespeople in the process. This shift not only opens up space for good salespeople to become great, but it puts an innovative, customer-centric spin on sales roles that bodes well for business in general. Ultimately, sales becomes more about demonstrating subject-matter expertise, consulting, and relationship-building than closing. The modern salesperson has to keep up with modern buyer expectations and act as an expert on-demand resource, particularly in B2B sales.
And the modern buyer sure has expectations. For one, they expect to try before they buy. This “freemium” concept was brought to us by the software industry, but as tech sets the standard for most things, the concept is seeping into other industries too. People want outstanding, seamless experiences from the companies they buy from, but they’re also less eager to talk to—let alone meet with—a sales rep in person. And when they DO want to speak with a sales rep, they want it right away.
These changing preferences are at changing preference is causing an ‘out with the old’ evolution in sales teams at even the most traditional companies, who are trying to rise to meet new expectations. Instead of the rep acting as the only source for information, people are actually using the products before they buy them. That leaves space for salespeople to grow with technology. For example, salespeople can harness intelligent sales technology like People.ai to sell smarter.
I think in the coming years, we’ll see the best salespeople rise to the occasion. They’ll adopt new technology, use automation to their advantage, and prove that sales roles should still be valued and sought after. It’s not about taking human beings out of the equation — pieces of the sales process will always likely call for a human touch for a long time to come. Instead, it’s about combining technology with human power to create as many routes to purchase as possible.
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