The Ongoing Evolution of the Salesperson: Adapt or Die

Like everything else in business, sales has evolved. Evolution is not a voluntary thing – if conditions allowed it, dinosaurs would still roam the earth. But conditions change, and the dinosaurs failed to change with them – except for those who evolved into birds. (Yes, birds evolved from dinosaurs.) the ongoing evolution of the salespersonSales people have been evolving as the conditions around them have changed, too. For example, sales made from horse-drawn wagons at fairs by salesmen who barked their pitch to a crowd have disappeared. So has most of the matching white shoes-and-belt breed of salespeople of the ‘60s and ‘70s. But salespeople are still with us, in new and exciting forms. They’re evolving. Besides being better dressed, today’s salesperson is embracing technology. There was a long battle that lasted through the 1990s when some salespeople actively battled the advent of CRM and contact management software, but the burst of the Dot-com bubble served notice that the battle was coming to an end, and the Great Recession finally killed off any resistance. Sales people realized that they needed to evolve – and embrace selling software – or they would fall by the wayside as sales forces shrank, quotas went up and expectations for the survivors became increasingly demanding. And yet we still have lots of salespeople. According to the National Labor Relations Board, in 2013, there were 3,655,980 people working in the U.S. in sales roles we commonly think about, including 1,653,600 people selling services and 1,756,600 working in wholesale and manufacturing sales roles, plus 245,780 sales managers. You might even roll the 65,730 sales engineers into that group. That’s a big number – and it’s a number that’s represented between 10.4 and 10.6 percent of the total workforce for the last 20 years. What will it look like in the future – say, in the year 2020? That’s only six years away, so one might extrapolate that the size of the salesforce will remain similar, if the pattern of the last 20 years holds. But what other attributes will it take for salespeople to remain in the profession and not be replaced by newcomers – digital natives who lack apprehension about technology? What will it take for today’s sales pros to maintain their edge in the future? And how will changes in selling technology, tactics and trends affect selling organizations – will they be able to keep pace with a rapidly changing buying audience? We’ll be looking at this very subject on Oct. 2 with our webinar “Prepare Sales for the Year 2020,” moderated by Selling Power’s Gerhard Gschwandtner and presented by Christina Kemper, VP of Sales at CallidusCloud, and Heidi Spirgi, SVP Business Agility Services, Appirio. It won’t be wild-eyed speculation – it will be a discussion based on current trends and technologies and anchored in reality (especially the reality that change is ever-present). It’ll also allow you to anticipate trends and get your sales force ahead of your competition today, before the future gets here. Sign up for the webinar ondemand here:

The Onging Evolution of the Salesperson

By Chris Bucholtz | September 29th, 2014 | Sales Performance Management (SPM)

About the Author: Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz is the content marketing director at CallidusCloud and writes on a host of topics, including sales, marketing and customer experience. The former editor of InsideCRM, his weekly column has run in CRM Buyer since 2009. When he's not pondering ways to acquire and keep customers, Chris is also an avid builder of scale model airplanes.