Technology Isn’t Replacing Sales: Why Sales Reps Still Matter

There has been a lot made of late of how e-commerce, mobile and other digital tools have put the buyer in control of the sales cycle. If you read most of these articles it would lead you to believe that we no longer need a sales team – that the automation of selling has made them irrelevant. My advice is to acknowledge the shift but don’t buy into the hype that surrounds it.

Our customers are indeed finding information about products and services via a variety of channels that previously were not available. While they may not need sales to walk them through the features and benefits of product, they can still benefit from the expertise that years of experience can provide. In fact, I feel that they may need this more than ever.

Buyers Leading the Buying Cycle

Today’s buyers are very good at using tools at their disposal such as e-commerce and mobile to conduct and engage in research independent of our support. Some reports estimate as high as 80% of the buying cycle (note that I am not referring to it as a sales cycle no longer) is completed independent of a direct sales contact. They have read detailed specs on a manufacturer’s site, downloaded a white paper and read case studies, listened to a webinar or watched a video demonstrating the product or service. They have also researched the competition and I feel that this is key. Our true competition as marketers are often no longer the supplier down the street, but our own customers doing research. If they find information that is valuable from a competitor and they do not find the same on your site or channels, the conversation has now shifted to a price discussion and that is not the position of power a sales rep wants to be in.

But information isn’t knowledge nor is it applied experience. Knowledge comes with experience and an understanding of the larger solution that a customer may face, not just the immediate challenge that a customer is facing. This is where a sales rep can play their hand and win the sale.

Too much information can also be a challenge for your customer. If you do a search for LED retrofits in Google, you are returned with over 12,000,000 results that include manufacturers, retailers, publishers, distributors among others as sources of content. Have you ever searched WebMD when you have an ailment thinking you have a life-threatening disease only to find out from your Dr. you have a common cold? 

Solve Problems that They Don’t Know They Have

Our customers come to us with problems they need to be solved. Sure they have conducted research and may even feel they have a solution, but they may not truly understand what is causing their pain, help them identify and solve the root cause of their pain. Educate them on the pitfalls that may exist by choosing one product over another and the impact that these choices make to their business. Help them understand that they can rely on you to complement the research and work they have done online by applying practical and real-life experience to make a big impact to their business.

Know one knows your products, services and the industries you serve better than you.

With the right tools and by applying active listening we can quickly get up to speed on where they are at in the buying cycle and help them solve the issue they have in their business. 

Technology is not going to replace the sales rep, nor will it do your job for you. Building relationships is still key to the success of conducting business and if you can complement it with channels where your customers can self-service their information gathering you will be a step ahead of your competition. They will begin to understand that not only can you provide the literal answers to their questions via spec sheets, you can also make the advisement and recommendations that will make them successful.