Will You Be Replaced by a Machine?

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According to a recent forecast by Forrester research (one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world), “1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020, accounting for 20% of the B2B sales force.” For years we have watched e-commerce make significant strides in the business-to-consumer (B2C) world. We’ve felt confident that such automation would never impact the B2B world as buying and selling is so much more consultative. We are no longer immune! In fact, the writing was on the wall the moment the Internet came into our lives.

Here’s a personal story: In the early 2000s, I was selling very sophisticated billing software to large telecommunication companies. While my boss was on vacation, a significant lead called. After one conversation with them, it was clear to me that they had done all their research and were in the final stages of selection – it was either us or one other vendor. I made the judgment to arrange a significant meeting flying in our top executives from Silicon Valley. When my boss returned from vacation, he hit the roof! He was furious that I would expose him in such a serious way “without properly qualifying the lead.” In his mind, it was impossible to be at the end of a sales cycle when we hadn’t gone through all the necessary sales process steps. What I realized in my first phone call was the buyer was at the end of their buying cycle and they had gone through their necessary process steps. Our CEO, VP Professional Services and VP R&D all flew in. Of course, I did my homework and briefed them on what the key issues and objective were and exactly what I needed them to say and what aspects of our capabilities they needed to emphasize. The meeting went extremely well and that evening over dinner, we signed a million dollar contract! Of course, my boss was happy to bask in the praises and congratulations from the executive team.

What my boss suffered from, and what most of us suffer from, is the perspective that our sales process has inherent value. It doesn’t! It’s real value is how it enables us to meet the buyer’s needs in a methodical way. While handling multiple accounts and opportunities, a methodology keeps us organized and enables us to consistently provide value to the buyer.

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