A friend forwarded the article ‘Death of a Salesman’ and thought of the quote famous quote by Mark Twain:

“The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

The author points to the fact that the Sales profession has been expanding rapidly over the century, at the front line of capitalism and the ‘consumption’ mindset. He then points to a large perceived ‘killer’ of sales roles:

But the biggest culprit in killing off sales jobs is right in front of you: the Internet. There was a lot of talk in the dot-com era, mostly positive, about "disintermediation," or creating direct connections between consumers and suppliers. Think of all the purchases you make today online that once would have been accompanied by a salesperson: a sweater, a book, a "compact disc," a small appliance or piece of electronic equipment, shares of a stock or mutual fund, airline tickets, etc. Even in my own industry—media supported by advertising—some ad space can be booked online, as Slate writer Seth Stevenson demonstrated in a video earlier this year. The precise impact of Internet selling on sales jobs is hard to quantify, but it’s a big contributor and it’s irreversible.

I would argue that the author’s viewpoint is too limited. The reality today is that if a job can be automated, it should. Capitalism and market economics will eventually dictate that reality, as the company who automates and gains efficiency overcomes the ones that do not. As simply stated in this poster from

Do I really need someone to help me select a CD or a book? No. I would rather use the web and social media to review opinions. Plus, the economics do not make sense.

What the author fails to understand is that this fundamental economic principle needs to be balanced off against human behaviour. It has been proven time and time again, that people are more likely to buy from people that they like or have a relationship with. Companies simply need to do the math: When the value of the sale is matched with an increased probability of volume, due to persuasion, and it makes financial sense, then the salesperson will remain in the equation. If the value of the sale is so low, or relationship does not play a part in the purchase, the salesperson will be cut out. Simple.

But it hardly means the death of sales. It just means the death of low value sales jobs:

The middle, however, is being "hollowed out," in the phrase David Autor used in an economic paper published in April, and sales is a major component of that shrinking middle. The strength of sales jobs is that they can be reasonably high-paying but typically don’t require technical training or other specialized skills. When those jobs disappear, the people who hold them will often be pushed down the wage ladder or even out of the workforce. Sixty years after Willy Loman, that is our tragedy.

It means an evolution, where the low value ‘sales people’ see their roles eliminated, not unlike many other jobs that are automated. Of interest, I have spoken to more than one sales leader who lamented about how hard it is to find qualified, high quality sales people, as many ‘salespeople’ enter the field by accident, do what comes ‘naturally’ and don’t take the profession of sales seriously. If people wish to remain in the ‘hollowed out’ middle class via sales, then they better take it seriously and focus on skills improvement. Most sales people I know have a University degree as a start. In the profession, sales books and training abound, but how many actually leverage it? The successful ones.

It also points back to something that I continue to harp on, when will our educational institutions get out of their glass towers and recognize that a business degree should include sales and leadership training? It is pathetic. Instead they stick to the antiquated notion that an Economic class is more relevant, when in fact I have never used a theory from that class in my daily business life. But I could have used practical sales and management training, even if I was too young and inexperienced to really leverage it, at least it would have provided a foundation.

Time for Universities to recognize that employers require sales, that they need to meet the market demand AND finally provide sales the respect that it deserves.

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