Forrester Research recently forecast that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by 2020 which is almost 20% of the entire B2B sales force. Now while I agree that this a pretty accurate prediction, it will not be without challenges and we will not see the B2B sales person "extinction" that many people are suggesting any time soon.
So B2B sales people are a bit like oil... stay with me now. Both Oil and sales people are predicted to see decline over the coming years due to more sustainable, renewable and cost effective alternatives. What people may not realise is just how much oil is needed to create said energy. People still need to fly, drive, use plastics, and much more that needs oil to move in that direction. The Prius for example still needs petroleum. Am I saying that 100% renewable energy isn't possible? No I am saying it's further away than we think... and the same can be said for the end of B2B sales people.
B2B sales people are facing their own seemingly positive challenges, but instead of renewable energy it's the success of inbound marketing and in particular Content Marketing. Content is a fantastic way of attracting customers and can really help businesses to market themselves to an audience in a predictive, sustainable and cost effective way without the challenges of a costly sales team. Content Marketing is still however a little bit like renewable energy if you have a high value Enterprise item. You still need someone to guide the prospect through the many hurdles to close a deal. There is contracting, procurement, buy in from other departments, and so many other things that can lose a deal that a good Enterprise sale person tackle in order to close business. So if you have a product that costs more than $1000 per month I firmly believe that like oil, there is still a need the resource for now.
The main reason content marketing is so successful, and that the B2B sales person can in some cases be phased out is a fundamental change in buyer behaviour (Google Zero Moment of Truth). The danger of this research is that CEO's and CMO's everywhere use this as a way of decreasing sales teams and boosting marketing budgets in the thought they can close $20,000+ deals without a sales team. While you may get lucky, this is not a good idea. Invest more in content? yes. Invest less in sales? only decrease sales in line with the improved performance of your inbound efforts. If your content works so well that you can close twice as many deals with one sales person great! but try it before you scrap sales and see your revenues dip.
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