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Believe it or not, death of the traditional field sales force is no exaggeration


Over the last five years, one of the biggest changes in the business of selling is the growing popularity of online shopping.

Customers and businesses alike are opting for the online medium to save time and money. Today, most traditional brick-and-mortar businesses offer customers the option of online purchases and many businesses have ditched the storefront for the website.

What does this do to traditional sales force?

Customers prefer to browse FAQ pages online, rather than encounter in-your-face sales representatives. When needed, they quickly email enquiries or call a customer service representative. It’s predicted that field sales force teams will no longer be required in the near future. With their days numbered, why are so many industries still insisting on hiring a strong sales force?

Take the pharmaceutical industry for example.

Thirty years ago, I started my sales career as a pharmaceutical representative. Back then, field sales force teams were common and were a key source of information about new pharmaceutical products.

Today, time-strapped doctors and dentists no longer would rather go online research information in a more convenient, simple and cost-effective way, or to even place orders. But, to my surprise, I found a few months ago that nothing much has changed in the pharmaceutical industry. The “information regurgitating” field sales teams were still the norm.

To ignore the rapid changes could be perilous for businesses. It is important that companies adopt modern strategies and revamp their customer-focused field sales teams. Businesses can no longer take their customers for granted. The new-age customer is tech-savvy and with a click of a mouse can be just as informed on a product or service as the sales representative.

Let me offer three quick tips that can help businesses implement a sales process that is relevant to the customer and adds real value to field sales teams:

Get online, quickly. Businesses need to set up effective online channels to allow customers to buy genuine products at reasonable prices. If businesses don’t create this, other less reputable businesses will fill the gap and eat their lunch.

Deliver insights, not information. If a business is to invest in a field sales team, retrain your sales team to deliver more than just product monologues. It serves nobody for them to go out and repeat information that the customer already knows or is not interested in anyway. Sales reps who bring valuable insights into the latest innovations or techniques, or help with growth ideas, achieve bring real value to customers and produce better results.

Change, change, change. Adopt the mantra of change and spread the word across your enterprise. Sticking to what once worked is not good enough. You will only be left behind in the rapidly changing world because competitors are thinking strategically and accommodating for the sales shift.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker and adviser. She founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. www.barrett.com.au.