Since the advent of the internet there have been cautionary warnings that the role of the salesperson was on a path to extinction. After the launch of the Google Virtual Showroom, which allows a consumer to “walk” through a store and “shop” as if they were there, the rumors were rampant again. How did that work out?
I work with insurance agents, travel agents, manufacturing reps, high tech reps, etc. that worry they will go the way of the “buggy whip salesperson”. I say “relax” to borrow a phrase that has been tossed about the last few weeks.
Based upon a U.S. Census report released in August of 2014 approximately 5.9% of purchases in the U.S. for quarter 2 of 2014 were e-commerce transactions. That is up from 5.3% in the same quarter of 2013. Based upon a growth rate of about half a percent a year I am not too worried about e-commerce replacing the sales person anytime in the near future!
That alone is not the primary reason why the salesperson is as relevant, if not more so, than ever. The reasons why the salesperson will always be relevant are just DIFFERENT from a short 10 years ago. Why? The role of the seller has changed dramatically over the years from the repository of information on their company and industry to a curator of information as Dan Pink calls it.
The simple way to explain this is just to say that a salesperson needs to understand what role the internet can play effectively from a transactional standpoint and then make sure they are absolutely outstanding at providing everything else. Sounds simple huh?
At our company we like to say that “All things being equal people prefer to buy from someone they like and trust and all things being unequal people will STILL try to buy from someone they like and trust.”
When the internet can do THAT then I’ll start worrying.