Last week, a digital marketer on LinkedIn proposed that he didn’t see a need for companies to have a sales function anymore.
Their comment: I am not sure why you need a ‘Sales’ function anymore. What purpose does it serve in the near future and beyond? The only function of a Sales person is to build a relationship to tip the odds on your side by way of finding customers, building a pipeline, anticipating, building trust, cajoling, impressing and negotiating a favorable transaction. Except for the cajoling part, all the others can and are bring enabled through automated, intelligent systems. And if your product is really good… you really don’t need to cajole anyone. I for one believe the ‘Sales’ function will soon become a vanity function. From car sales to home sales to software sales. There is absolutely no need for a dedicated ‘sales’ person. Unless you feel insecure about what you offer to the market.
I showed this to a friend, who responded, “They’ve never worked in enterprise software before, I’d guess.” – which was my first thought as well. It goes deeper than that, however.
Regarding “Is sales becoming a vanity function?“, let’s examine that. That’s an odd question. Does anyone you know fluff up their ego by hiring “extra” salespeople? I’d guess not. I suppose that it’s possible that someone somewhere brags about their massive sales team (as opposed to their team’s performance?). It’s possible the idea is that having a sales team raises the cachet of the firm. To me, they exist for a reason: not all products & services sell themselves.
You probably remember a time when you dealt with an ineffective or poorly focused salesperson. I suspect most people have also worked with outstanding salespeople. Their experience & ability to analyze a prospect’s situation add significant value to a relationship. That’s really the difference.
A website can easily provide features & benefits. A series of appropriately timed, in-context emails, surveys, video and other digital content can address objections, guide a prospect through a “funnel” and change context depending on the prospect’s reaction. Automation can discern when a person is ready to buy based solely on things like the use of singular vs. plural responses. You can digitally create something between the company & their prospect that feels like it might be a relationship.
But it isn’t really a relationship.
Some products and services can be sold with little more than a digital storefront and inbound marketing. Not all products and services fit that mold. Some are too complex for most customers to select & configure on their own. Sometimes there’s a highly detailed process to making that happen. Not every business works that way – but many do.
“My product is good enough…”
“My product is good enough that I shouldn’t need salespeople. It’s so good, should sell itself.” A naive statement. You might also hear it as “My product is good enough that I shouldn’t need to market it.“
How many times have you suggested to someone that they go to this restaurant or that – and the person you’re talking to has never heard of it? The same goes for a contractor, a movie, a band… it doesn’t matter.
Has every person you’ve ever made a recommendation to responded with something like “Already tried them, they’re great.” If not, why would you expect that the same reaction would occur when someone recommends what you do?
What happens in the meantime when no one is referring your work? Maybe the customers who refer you the most have been discouraged lately. Maybe they’ve gone hunting, fishing, or skiing. Are they overseas for a month? Does it make sense to sit around & let sales and marketing “take care of itself” while waiting for the typical volume of referrals you get when those customers return? Is that what your competitors are doing to get new business?
Some businesses are better than others at generating referrals & create a process that makes it easy. Certain types of work is easier to refer. There are other kinds of work that few are likely to crow about because of the reflection it makes on the referrer.
It’s great that you have a product that’s so good that it sells itself or markets itself (whatever that means to you). That doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands & wait for business to waltz in the door.
Good salespeople make it rain.