I’ve recently seen a startling reference from Gartner in a couple of different presentations: “Gartner, a research organization, predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. It is likely that of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left.” (See this article on Selling Power)
Wow, even if that prediction is only 50% accurate, that’s quite a wake-up call. Ever increasing technological capabilities have increased the sophistication and types of customer-facing activities that no longer require human interaction. This has also contributed to the knowledge and experience of buyers – just consider these different buying experiences: whether it’s a new car where buyers are equipped with as much knowledge as the dealer, or enterprise software, where consultants, research groups, and experienced IT departments often lead the process.
Increasingly, sales professionals and teams must continue to add significant value above and beyond the product/solution/service, and while this has been a recurring theme (and focus of many books and sales training programs), our recent experience working with our clients in industries as diverse as enterprise IT, hospitality, and environmental services reinforces the need for sales teams to differentiate based on how they sell and less so on what they are selling.
The high water mark still seems to be Neil Rackham’s adage that the customer should leave a sales conversation with the impression that they would be willing to “write a check” for the value of that interaction. While this might not be realistically attainable in each and every conversation, in total, this is how the customer should view the value of your interactions.