Is The Role of a Salesperson Dead?

Dec 13, 2021

The Evolving Landscape in Sales

As we enter a new age of automation, where technology and society are evolving faster than most organizations can, Darwin’s words have never resonated more clearly.

New automated technologies have the ability to entirely transform businesses and takeover jobs where humans were once required. We’ve already seen this across industries, but sales is a role particularly at risk.

Prospects Are Harder to Reach Live
A tip we hear often from brokers who may be in “stall mode” is to just “pick up the phone and call someone.” Unfortunately, in today’s world it’s becoming very rare to actually reach someone live on the phone.

In the past time, the office “gatekeeper” was once the receptionist, who has today been replaced with an automated voicemail directory system. If you are lucky enough to even find the right name you are trying to reach within the directory, you can also count on that person to transfer your call to their voicemail.

Next to no one seems to list phone numbers publically anymore. You go to a company’s website, particularly tech firms, and there is no contact information listed other email addresses. It’s as if businesses have decided that it’s too expensive to have a human being field calls and that answering the phone from an unknown number is a waste of time.

Although this “new age gatekeeper” makes no sense to me, it’s the reality that which we as salespeople have to learn to work around.

So what do we tell our salespeople to do? We tell them to do some research on professional platforms such as LinkedIn and Manta, attend networking events, and learn to attract new clients by engaging on social media. The ability to have meaningful conversations and interactions with clients will require a consistent presence across social, mobile and web channels. None of these methods are either easier nor faster than picking up the phone, but it’s becoming the only viable options when it comes to engaging with clients.

Marketers Taking Over Sales
A job in sales used to be distinctly different from a job in marketing. In today’s world, a salesperson also has to have the skills of a strong marketer. They have to be able to find new ways to be found and entice people organically reach out to them, instead of the other way around.

In a way, this is maybe what businesses are hoping we evolve into– more sales via collaboration and less via an individual. More collaboration will mean more team efforts in order to attract new sales opportunities. Quite the opposite from the “lone wolf approach” in which the sales career path has been built upon.

Here’s the thing– yes, marketers can attract clients to their services, but there is still a bit of convincing that needs to be done in order to persuade a client to make the purchase. This task is not easily done and salespeople get paid well to perform such a job. Marketers on the other hand get paid much less, thereby costing companies less if they believe that they can turn a marketing call into a sales transaction.

Is our role dead?
Today’s salespeople are no longer even recognized as salespeople. More likely, they hold titles such as as vice presidents, advisors, client specialists, principals– anything but a salesperson within their title. It’s like sales is a bad word or is it simply a major shift to replace salespeople with marketing people because salespeople make too much money are not controllable will jump ship with any better offer will steal their clients and move them somewhere else and simply are not company people. Marketing people are mostly salary plus a bonus. Clients belong to the company if you leave you can’t take anything with you. Therefore, the company can remain stable if good marketing people leave.

If the phone is not going to get answered and you can’t stop to visit with clients because the security guard won’t let you in the elevator, then perhaps the salesperson is a breed on the extinction list.

However, it’s important to note that clients-no matter how big their business may be-are still people. And people like to do business with other people. Often times, the decision makers need real answers to unique questions that are not always anticipated in datasheets, brochures, and other automated technologies– with the level of specificity only a human-to-human interaction can provide.

To say in the game and keep the salesperson’s role with valued, today’s salespeople will need to play to the traits that make them uniquely human-being trustworthy and have the ability to relate to customers and prospects at a personal level. These are the things that simply cannot be replicated by machines.

Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy Flickr via Compfight cc

Written by: Hans Hansson

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Hans Hansson is President of Starboard Commercial Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email [email protected] or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,