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February 29, 2016

(Slideshare) The New Role of Sales in a Digital World

by Tom De Baere

the new role of sales in a digital worldRepeatedly the death of salespeople has been announced in the last 50 years. Each time, sales people survived. Why? Because they evolved.

The digital evolution has changed how organizations conduct business.

By 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a business without talking to a human being. The buyer is also more informed than ever thanks to the abundance of online content, and now has the upper hand in negotiations.

Sales organizations and sales people must evolve.

In this blog post, and Slideshare, I want to share with you my opinion about how sales organization can evolve, and how they can redefine the role of the sales in a digital world.

Customer today have all the power


It should not be a surprise to you that the way people buy today has changed.

Today consumers and businesses have access to a massive amount of content, and new entrants that provide intelligence to consumers and businesses.

In the technology world, new entrants like Business Insider Intelligence, VentureBeat Intel, GigaOM research, Trustradius, G2 Crowd, etc. are providing new informed ways of decision making for high value purchases in B2B.

Social media, review sites, comparison sites and the “Yelpification” of buying in general are informing customers better than ever, giving them new powers against brands.

New customer expectations towards the use of new real-time communication apps like Whatsapp and others, instant buying buttons in Twitter and Facebook, and increasingly higher demands towards logistics (Amazon Prime, Drones and even 3D printing) are putting organizations under pressure.

More and more, software and algorithms are used to buy stuff. We do not always realize this as a customer, but e-commerce website that recommend products, or digital shopping assistants that predict our needs, are entering our world.

This trend is set, and will continue to change the way businesses and consumers make decisions and buy ‘stuff’.

The impact on sales

dow we still need sales people?

A lot has been written about sales people entering late to the party. It is true that buyers are more informed, and that sales people are only involved very late in the buying journey of B2C and B2B buyers.

At a certain moment the question arrises: do we even still need sales people? Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. Now that’s in B2B. Initially not all salespeople will be impacted equally, in which especially order takers are impacted the most. Because these people add little value.

But I think, with what is happening today in the digital space, all of this is going to have a much more dramatic impact on much more types of salespeople.

Rethinking the role of sales


Last week I had the pleasure and honor to present to a room full of sales executives. What was interesting is that the whole day, the majority of presentations given to these sales executives where given by marketers. This is a reflection of how marketing is taking the lead in the customer conversation, and that the role of sales must evolve.

But how should this role evolve? How can sales reposition themselves to add value along the customer life-cyle?

In my presentation, of which you can find the Slideshare presentation above, I put forward my vision on what should happen. I think sales can add value by:

  • shifting the mindset from sales centric to buyer centric;
  • by helping customers, through content;
  • by being socially ‘switched on’;
  • by acting upon data and online buying signals,
  • by engaging ‘in context’;
  • by closely working with marketing;
  • by using content to facilitate the ‘close’;
  • and finally, by re-organizing sales and marketing processes.

Here is the presentation. I hope it inspires you to make that change happen.


Warm regards,
Tom De Baere

P.S. What do you think about the changing roles of sales? Let me know in the comments!