COVER STORY: Death of a salesman?

Digitisation and buyer empowerment are impacting on the role of sales. Victoria Clarke asks: does this signal the end of the traditional salesperson? And what effect might it have on marketers?

Sales has come a long way from the days of a lowly salesman travelling around with his samples and a briefcase. Back then, it was often the only way to engage with a prospect or customer. Despite this, the role of the salesperson was critical in gaining traction among potential customers and then nurturing that relationship until hands were shaken and the dotted line was signed. Sales were traditionally the only customer-facing role and this role was defined. No salesperson, no relationship with the buyer, no deal.

Fast forward to 2014 and it’s a completely different story. The sales landscape is now awash with tools and technology allowing sales teams of varying sizes to engage with their target audience, anywhere, anytime, using multiple channels. But this has created a double-edged sword. The sales team may be empowered but so too are the buyers, and this shift, combined with increasingly blurred lines between sales and marketing, is forcing the sales role into the spotlight.

So, will sales succumb to a digital deluge that could remove more of their responsibilities? Or perhaps we will see salespeople metamorphose into marketers – and if that’s the case, what does this mean for the marketing department?