2020: Out with the Old, in with the New


According to a report from Forrester Research, one million B2B sales roles will become obsolete by 2020 — which means roughly one-quarter of current salespeople will be out of a job. Why? Because Buyers’ demands – and selling skills to meet those demands – are changing rapidly. If you don’t adapt your way of selling, you may be in trouble soon.

Most impacted will be the ”Order Takers”, who generally process orders that customers could easily place through online self-service

Salespeople categorized as ”Explainers”, those who provide buyers with more information about complex products, will also slowly disappear. Why spending time with these types of reps if most if not all information is available online?

Also, the ”Navigators”, type of Sales Reps who help buyers understand what their own companies need to purchase will eventually be replaced by online-advice.

The only Sales Reps that will survive are the “Advisers”, who have extensive knowledge about the buyer’s company, their challenges, and strategy.  These new types of salespeople understand where the complex buyer’s situation intersects with what they know best. They bring different types of value to the customer’s table like insights, risk of not changing, growth opportunities and profit generators.

What skills do you need to have to stay in the job? Here are three abilities you need to work on:

  1. The Ability to See the Bigger Picture

Companies require their functional managers to think less in silos and more as a team, all focused on the overall company strategy. The average number of decision-makers in B2B purchases is 6.4. As a sales rep, you will deal with more than one contact person and you will need to immediately figure out how your product and service fit into both the prospect’s individual goals and the overall company strategy.

  1. The Ability to ‘De-Educate’ Customers/Prospects

By the time you meet your prospect, they are already for 57% through their purchasing process. They have been informed about your company online or via their social network and as time goes on, buyers are only going to consume more content. But is it all correct? If you can bring insights to the table, information your prospect didn’t know or was misinformed on, your credibility as a Trusted Adviser rise.

  1. The Ability to Build your own Digital Presence

Buyers say they’re far likelier to engage with salespeople if they’re thought-leaders or subject matter experts. Building that reputation is much harder (maybe even impossible) if you’re not active online.

You cannot leave the brand-building all to marketing, by 2020 you are expected to have own digital presence.

In my view, there is one crucial fundamental skill to add: Having a mindset where the customer’s success is your objective. The traditional value of relationship building, in the eyes of the customer, is worth less than your ability to share insights, to advice and to focus on their success. If you are not this value-adding salesperson than most likely your customer will not ask for a second appointment.

In the years to come, and if you haven’t noticed it started already now, customers sense much earlier in their buying process what type of salesperson you are. Do you have their success in mind or do you have your own sales objectives?

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