How has the Sales role changed in the last 30 years?

‘Back to the Future Day’ was celebrated recently in which the future date that Marty travelled to in the film became reality.That film was made in 1985. What’s amazing is just how many ‘crazy ideas’ they put into that film are now common place in our day to day lives such as video calling, finger print ID on devices and mobile payments to name just a few.
This got me thinking about how the role of salesperson has changed, when I started, over the 30 years I have been involved in the sales process. Back then the roads were full of salesman in their Ford Sierras, Vauxhall Cavaliers (And if you were really unfortunate an Austin Montego!) with the only validation of success being the quality of coat hanger suspended from the rear hand hold.

You had a mighty big computer in the office, but that was it. Compare that now with news and up to date information made available on the plethora of hand held mobile devices. Looking back even further to 1943 allegedly  there is a famous quote from an IBM head of business that said “there is a market for about 5 computers” ! What happened? The answer in short, technology took over.

All telephone calls were carried out on a fixed line all apart for those mobile phone units that looked like something out of a war film and weighed like a ton of bricks. Of course the choice you had then was to wait until you’ve reached either your office or your home to make a call. How did we survive?

Compare that with now where the majority of calls are made using a mobile phone and in business to not have it readily available is kin to cutting off your right arm.

In 1985 much of the selling was carried out face to face and you would use fax to communicate orders. Now with email many of the orders are sent through your inbox and goods are sent out for next day delivery with invoices following rapidly at the click of a mouse.
The internet has now changed everything that we do and the way we work and play. Information is at your fingertips which means we all have access to the data required to make informed decisions or compare prices for that vintage British Leyland model you drove as pimple faced sales rep.
From a business standpoint the buyer also has access to your portfolio and knows more about you, your product and the market before you even take your first sip of coffee.

Social media is also an area where you need to have a presence of some kind. 30 years ago there was telephone, letter headed paper and a fax. I remember giving the office secretary a letter to write following a customer visit. 2 days later it was sent out after being approved by the head honcho. Now we send an email almost instantly and it’s done and dusted.
So with all this technology why do you need sales professionals?

Well much of the regular servicing of accounts (could be termed as a milk round) have been replaced effectively with telesales communication and/or continuous marketing messages. In most instances where salesman have been de- commissioned and where the transition has been handled carefully there has been little or no effect on sales
This of course can have big savings for the Company.

However, even though technology should make the job easier and more effective it cannot replace the human touch where interaction and feelings between real individuals ultimately seal the sales deal. This is particularly the case with launch of new products and initiatives or where marketing needs to be positioned with a value added proposition.
In the B 2 B environment the sales approach is still very relevant; this goes alongside the marketing piece. It requires the right approach and their interest needs to be served and developed. You also need to understand the dynamics of the market and what is really happening out there in the real world

So `Scratching the pad` days may have gone per se and replaced by a more business development role which includes research, marketing, communicating effectively to the client and internally as well as securing sales and their commitment. Today there are generally less miles travelled and time saved with less frequent face to face calls alongside communication via phone, email and conference video calls

At Beacon Sales we promote a sales led marketing strategic approach which joins the 2 communicators together and ensures that the marketing effectively works closely with sales.
The message and story needs to be right and communicated well so that the potential sales function can be developed with minimal stress leading to greater productivity and profits.
Until there’s a holographic image or robot to replace homo sapiens then the human touch will still be needed and the deal sealed with a real handshake.