1 Million Sales Jobs Are Disappearing: Take Bob Dylan’s Advice

I recently came across a Forrester Research study called Death of a (B2B) Salesman.

Maybe I’m sucker for a catchy headline, but having chosen to dedicate my life to the craft of B2B selling, let’s just say it grabbed my attention.

The paper (which was actually published in 2015 but is even more relevant today) revolved around the notion that 1 million B2B sales jobs in the U.S. will be eliminated by the year 2020.

This isn’t an insignificant number. Forrester pointed out that based on a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only an estimated 4.5 million B2B salespeople in the United States. This same BLS study also identified a downward trend, with the number of salespeople per million dollars of real GDP in the U.S. already being cut in half over a span of 10 years — from 2.08 to 0.98.

So why is this happening? You might ask…

Forrester pegged this trend on the combination of a shift in buyer preferences and continuing advancements in e-commerce technology. I think very few of us would disagree.

I got an online quote for insurance the other day, and at the end of the process it said — please call this number to purchase.

I thought: “Are you kidding me!?”

”I wanna do this right here, right now!”

”I have to talk to a human!?”

Some of us will remember a time fifteen years ago, when if you wanted to buy an accounting package for your business you probably called three of four companies to connect with the local sales rep to see if they could come to your office for a presentation.

Now — three clicks and you’re live with a free trial…no credit card required!

There’s no doubt things have changed dramatically, but how far will it go?

Forrester did point out that the lion’s share of these 1 million sales jobs to be replaced by online self-service and other automation will in fact be ‘order-taker’ type roles. They did believe, however, that this trend would also affect (to a lesser extent) some of the more complex roles in sales as new technologies emerge to supplement various sales activities.

Think more automated: demos, contract management, pricing estimation…negotiation(?)

This supports my long-held belief that the role of the B2B salesperson, no matter at what level of the sales totem pole, has fundamentally changed.

Top-performing salespeople can no longer sell and inform, they need to analyze and advise.

Simply put, if you don’t have consultative selling skills to set you apart from the pack, you WILL get automated out by technology.

It may not be tomorrow or 5 years from now, and it probably won’t happen before the majority of trucking jobs get eliminated, but it’s coming. After all, sales and customer acquisition are one of the largest expense lines for many companies, so it only makes business sense to focus R&D efforts around lessening this burden.

The other side-effect Forrester noted was an impact on the sales talent pipeline. When you think about it, a lot of the roles likely to fall victim to increased automation are currently filled by entry-level talent who will progress up the organizational hierarchy throughout their careers. Elimination of these roles will force companies to look for new ways of hiring, training and back-filling openings previously held by senior sales resources.

What does this all have to do with Bob Dylan?

Well, as he famously sang:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Those who are going to survive and flourish during this major shift will be the ones who start swimming as fast as they can — developing their skills and embracing the future state of selling.

Mark Cox, Managing Partner at In the Funnel Sales Consulting, is a sales expert who has led sales organizations in technology, services and consulting for his entire career. Mark has sold, structured and negotiated some of the largest single-sale transactions in North America (including a billion-dollar transaction with a top-10 U.S. bank).

This article was originally posted on www.inthefunnel.com

In the Funnel Academy is an online learning platform and Sales Playbook for growth-focused B2B companies looking to accelerate their sales growth.

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