Selling is Dead, Sales Lives On

Not too long ago, I read an article by Bernard Marr, which seemed to reach the conclusion that sales departments may no longer be needed. He pointed out that the traditional sales model is changing, the sales department is being repurposed and reoriented and the death of the salesman is upon us (Arthur Miller would appreciate that one). The core message is clear–things are changing. And when the evolution is done, sales will be scaled back, rebranded and repurposed, as needed.

While I agree with this article on a few key points, I think it is important to address the idea that the art of sales is not coming to an end. Selling (in its current form) may be dead, but sales will live on.

What do I mean by this? I mean that the traditional model of selling, with the old tactics, plays, and conventional methods, are indeed dying out. Modern sales reps need to rely on an ever-expanding arsenal of applications to bring humanity back into the sales cycle, allowing them to leave the script behind and form meaningful connections with their prospects. And they certainly cannot hope to achieve consistent quota attainment while leaning on outdated system and techniques. New sales models encourage sales reps to be educators and owners of unique insights that can benefit and inspire potential customers even if they never commit to a purchase.

Your sales department is more necessary today than it has ever been, and now more than ever is it imperative that companies innovate in their approach. The only thing that has died is the place for an outdated, insistent, and impersonal approach to selling.

The new sales department is a connected, engaged, and inspired department, one whose role is shared by marketing and support divisions and any other customer-facing group. It relies on establishing thought leadership in the industry and communicating with inquisitive, informed customers. The new sales rep needs to have something valuable to offer this information-saturated and time-crunched individual, something beyond simple FAQs. He or she needs to provide deep, data-driven insights about the issues facing the customers.

Ultimately, renaming your sales reps as this article suggests is a face-value change; these reps still have quotas to meet. Whether you change the title or repurpose the marketing, the important thing to understand is that a fresh coat of paint doesn’t fix a house. Changing the perception of what sales can be is more important than pretending your organization is no longer moving a product. With a real behavioral shift to the nature of sales, we won’t have to hide our reps behind new nomenclature–we can position them as educators and thought leaders, and let their new value sell the customer on the importance of the department.

So, sure, the old methods of selling might be over and done for – or as this article noted, dead.

But sales is back in a big way, and I for one am glad to see it.

Christopher Cabrera
About the author: 

Christopher Cabrera is the Chief Executive Officer of Xactly Corporation (NYSE: XTLY), a pure-play, SaaS company that provides cloud-based, enterprise software, services and tools to allow for sales performance management, sales effectiveness, sales compensation, and employee engagement.  Previously, Christopher held Senior Vice President and Director positions with both Callidus Software and SGI.  Exactly has been recognized (Fortune, Wall Street Journal, etc.) as  a “Great Place to Work and as a “Top 10 Coolest Company to Work For”.  Follow Mr. Cabrera on Twitter.