Sales 2.0: The Death of a Salesman

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Sales 2.0, by Dave Butler

The tech industry continues the painful process of dumping its outside sales forces. This should not be surprising as the Internet has facilitated the elimination of retail stores, land lines, taxis, travel agents, grocery stores, universities, etc. However, using the Internet to eliminate Internet sales forces seems a tad auto-cannibalistic.

The largest tech infrastructure companies came of age during the 1980s and 1990s. They invariably depended upon massive, powerful, outside sales forces. Many continue to operate some of the largest outside sales forces in existence today.

By contrast, the Internet giants that have dominated tech over the past 15 years deploy a different field composition. No outside sales. Little to no channel. Just a powerful web presence, talented inside sales, a few elite road warrior execs, and a relevant game plan.

Older, infrastructure-centric tech giants, and their newer contemporaries, just sell differently.

Why new companies view infrastructure field models as anachronistic
The cost of outside sales is prohibitive. Experienced outside reps make a lot of money. They spend a lot of money. Other sales models are materially cheaper.

Transaction prices are decreasing. Regardless of the offering, customers buy more regularly, but at lower prices and in lower volumes than in the past. If ASP is plummeting, and cost of sales is constant, there’s a problem.

Buyers tend to dislike the outside sales process. A wine-and-dine sales rep who carries a threatening quota is not always thinking about customer service. S/he is thinking about how s/he can coax, manipulate, outfox, lock-in, obligate, or otherwise compel the largest possible purchase in the shortest possible time. Beyond motivational conflicts, outside sales people are less available, they may not have timely access to corporate data, they work with your competitors, often lack authority, and do not hesitate to push too hard, to loud, and too long.

The experience of an inbound/inside sales process is appreciated by buyers. Inside people were once considered to be the second class citizens of the field. Very good teams are now differentiated from their outside counterparts by knowledge, consistency, responsiveness, trust, and insight, yet they are not salesy. These qualities come easier when selling alongside of a massive, indispensable, online, content infrastructure integrated throughout the entire sales process. (By contrast, the content infrastructure of an outside sales force is a systems engineer).

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