How will sales organizations look like five years from now? Will we see more sales tasks move online? If so, what is the future role of sales? As leading B2B sales and marketing organizations adapt to fast changing market conditions, new roles and titles emerge.
Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Chief Experience Officer (CXO) and Chief Marketing Technologist Officer (CMTO) are just a few examples of modern roles in today's business landscape. Have you ever wondered: how will the role of traditional sales professionals look like five years from now? Will organizations even need traditional salespeople in 2020? ProSales knows sales organizations in 2020 will certainly not look the way they do today. Interviews with sales directors reveal sales organizations are operating under a new normal: changes in buyer behavior, higher sales costs, increased competition and developments in digital technologies are transforming sales organizations across a wide variety of industries.
Forward thinking opinions about how sales will look like in 2020 have been shared by sales experts. In their views, the profession of selling and the role of salespeople will not stay the same. In an interesting article published by Inc, sales expert Tom Searcy predicts the following changes:
Fewer traditional salespeople
First, the effectiveness of traditional direct prospecting methods (such as cold calling) will decrease to the point that costs will not outweigh benefits. Second, lower rates of face-to-face sales meetings is expected because of client's lack of time and interest in meeting new vendors. Moreover, buyers will continue to exercise power over sellers by:
- Using online auctions even in small deals.
- Reducing current value added activities to basic "must-have" requirements. In other words, they will raise the bar by turning today's value added activities into minimum requirements.
- Contacting manufacturers directly. Buyers will minimize their dependence on sales reps, dealers and distributors by completely bypassing them.
All these forces are likely to reduce the need to involve a sales person in the buying process.
Trading will replace buying and selling
What's more, once the trend of lower prices and margins reaches its limit, products and services will be reduced to mere commodities included in standard purchase processes. Hence, rather than being bought and sold, these commodities will be traded. If competitive pricing exercises result in products and services being traded, what will happen to the sales process? Will salespeople assess client needs, identify solutions and provide price? There is reason to believe that the traditional sales process will be shortened to one step: rapid quoting.
Specialist roles will emerge
These changes raise the question of whether traditional sales professionals will be needed five years from now. If they exist, would they have the same role? Tom Searcy in "A Glimpse into the Future: What Sales Will Look Like 5 Years From Now" identifies four specialist roles likely to emerge:
- A possible role for salespeople is to act as traders. If products and services are not bought and sold but rather traded, salespeople will likely act as quote facilitators.
- Another likely role to evolve over time is the designer. When clients request a customized solution, a sales person will have the task to build and design a tailored solution by combining pre-packaged modules. There will be less focus on building solutions from scratch and more focus on designing solutions based on existing product or services.
- In order to design a tailored solution, salespeople will likely need to mobilize internal and external resources. Hence, they will be required to work as project managers. As project managers they will collaborate with customers and network internally with different departments within their own organization. A project will likely include marketing but also supply chain, logistics, production, etc.
- A sales person's role will likely expand to lead generator. In their effort to bypass the barriers to reach decision making teams, they will use technologies and different lead generation mechanisms traditionally used by marketing departments. In the future, it is likely that the blur between sales and marketing will increase.
The 5th role: sales analytics
After years of research ProSales believes the above mentioned challenges are likely to impact sales organization. Moreover, the roles described above are a possible scenario of how sales could look like in the future. However, the consequences go beyond the four specialized roles of: trader, designer, project manager and lead generator. We foresee a fifth role: the sales analytics person. This role (beyond a lead generator) will generate revenue by systematically listening to online conversations and analyzing buyers' historical purchasing data. Salespeople may mine big quantities of online and internal data (via CRM and Business Intelligence) in order to recommend extra product and services as well as to tailor messages to resonate with the specific needs of each member of the buying team. They will master advanced analytics techniques to uncover patterns otherwise unknown to customers themselves. The sales analytics person may challenge customers with data driven insight.
specialist roles require special skills
Which one of the five roles will account for the majority of traditional salespeople in future sales organizations? Will designers and project managers be the most valuable roles? Will the demand for traders be higher than the demand for sales analytics? Regardless of the individual roles, the fundamental shift lies in the future skills required to perform these roles. The next generation sales team will posses a mix of social, networking, creative, analytical and technological skills, not commonly seen among today's sales teams. Are you ready to manage the future sales organization? Is your sales organization agile enough to adapt and flexible enough to transform?
Ph.D. Markus Ejenäs, ProSales Institute