Look around the office. Take your time, I'll wait.
There’s about to be a lot less of you if you trust in data coming from Forrester. In 2015, researchers estimated that one million B2B sales jobs will be eliminated due to self-serve e-commerce before 2020. The survey also revealed that 75 percent of B2B buyers prefer to buy online on their own schedule.
So the next question you have to ask is, if you’re not going to be signing any more deals over golf or martinis, what’s a sales rep’s new role in this brave new world of automation and artificial intelligence?
Simple — be more valuable!
In the 21st century, a sales rep is no longer merely a worker in the “smile-and-dial” department. As a next-gen rep, you will be able to make yourself an integral part of a healthy organization by aligning your priorities with long-term corporate strategy, and utilizing new technologies to become more efficient.
What does that mean in practical terms?
How do you feel about data? If it makes you queasy, you might need to repair that relationship ASAP. Investigate coaching analytics and data-driven decision support. It’s not too late, but the horses are out of the gate. Take some online data courses, network with IT specialists and show the data who’s boss.
In many organizations, sales and marketing are merging into ABO (account-based ops). The third component that has to be absorbed by ABO is Customer Success, which means no more handing off customers to the CS team after the sale is over. ABO is an end-to-end development chain from prospect to customer to brand advocate. Start developing better relationships with other key team members in other departments and knock down some silos.
Your 30-day quota cycle is important, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Go up. Get a bird’s-eye view, and then head higher and get a space station view. What is the enterprise’s long-term strategy? What will sales look like when 100 percent of closes are automated? What about in five years, when you report to an AI boss? What are the tools, processes and people you need to start studying now to be ready to ride the next digital transformation tsunami?
A sale is a relic of a different economic model. A sale was what happened when a random person bought a random object from a stranger. Those interactions belong on the History Channel. Today’s buyer and supplier interact continuously across many channels, online and offline. Your role as a representative of your company — not just a salesperson — is to be the subject matter expert (SME) that the buyer can come to with any kind of question. Humans excel at adaptive tasks, pattern recognition and interpersonal communication. Let automation do the rest.
Just because one million sales jobs go away doesn’t mean that one million individuals have to go with them. Adopt, adapt and improve, as John Cleese famously advised. The great news is that your role is now in your hands. Craft the kind of position that you want to have instead of taking one off the rack that doesn’t really fit you. And do it fast — 2020 is right around the corner.