According to Forrester Research, 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs by 2020. This represents a 20% reduction of the B2B sales force.
They go on to categorize sales positions into 4 groups, indicating where the greatest sales job losses will occur:
- Order takers: With artificial intelligence, the internet, and other technologies, order takers will become obsolete. Buying through new technology will become the norm. Sellers in this category will see major job loss.
- Explainers: With the vast amount of information out there—videos, reviews, online publications, etc.,—buyers are much further along in the buying process when they interact with sellers. They already have a good sense of the capability set of the company. Explainers will experience moderate job loss.
- Navigators: These sellers shepherd the buyer through the buying process. But buyers are more educated than ever and they don’t need a chaperone to help them buy. Expect to see some job loss here.
- Consultants: This is the one sales position where growth is predicted. The consultative seller enlightens buyers, shares ideas and insights, and provides value above and beyond the products and services they offer.
In our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we studied more than 700 B2B sales companies and compared what the winners of actual sales opportunities do differently than second-place finishers.
Sales winners are more than 3x more likely to provide new ideas and perspectives to buyers. This was the #1 factor separating those who were awarded the business versus those who left with the steak knives.
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, authors of one of the most popular business books in recent history, Blue Ocean Strategy, argue that companies "succeed not by battling competitors, but rather by creating 'blue oceans' of uncontested market space." They assert that, "these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees while making the competition irrelevant."
This is exactly what consultative sellers do.
The Seller/Buyer Relationship
A typical sale may begin something like this:
- Buyer states a need
- Several competitors try to solve it
Following this typical interaction, the competition—Order takers, Navigators, and Explainers—take the stated need and propose a solution. This leaves them stuck in a capabilities battle: products and services are commoditized and prices are pushed down.
However, a buyer's assessment of their own needs is typically vision-constrained.
Think about a recent RFP or sales inquiry you've had. Did the buyer know exactly the solution they wanted and have the proper mix of solutions in the appropriate time frames to get the best outcomes?
The answer to this question is almost always an emphatic, "No!"
The Consultative Seller
Now imagine the same sale where the buyer expresses a need. But, instead of proposing a solution for the stated need, the seller asks questions, and shares their experience in the area and what they've seen work and not work with similar companies. They enlighten the buyer. The conversation shifts. This approach from sellers helps buyers see new ways of succeeding they weren't previously considering.
When sellers educate with new ideas that inspire buyers and question the status quo, three things happen:
- Sellers redefine the need
- The buyer's perception of the value they can realize is expanded by the seller, and the seller maximizes the impact potential
- Other sellers continue to fight over the originally-stated need, while the consultative seller proposes a significantly different solution to the buyer with a changed perception of need
The net effect is the creation of a surge in value for the buyer while the seller makes him or herself categorically distinct from the competition, and makes the leap from the red ocean to the blue ocean.
At the end of the day, people buy you. They buy the seller. Sellers who add value, enlighten buyers, and bring new ideas to the table not only win more sales today, but are the sellers of the future.
Determined to keep your sales job? Time to make the change.