We’ve reached the point where we barely use our cell phones for actual calls, and the number of devices that most entrepreneurs deem essential is at least three – a phone, a laptop and a tablet. Despite well-meaning advice that we shut down electronics in the name of sleep, nightstands across America double as charging stations and 24-hour points of connectivity.
Ten years ago, the average person couldn’t have predicted today’s prevalence of electronics in our daily lives. Even as business has evolved, the increase of technology does not mean the end of interpersonal communication nor will it make the salesperson extinct. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are approximately 360,000 sales managers in the United States, and the profession will grow at 8 percent annually – about as fast as other professions – through 2022.
If you’ve found yourself wondering whether sales professionals will have a place in the future of commerce, rest assured that one of the oldest and largest professions will not go the way of the dinosaur. Here’s why:
Buying requires trust and assurance. Say your startup has gotten to the point of offering health insurance to employees. A Google search of “health insurance for startups” will lead you right to this. Maybe you’ll spend some time directly at the sites for Blue Cross or Aetna. But, in the end, your instincts will direct you to a health insurance broker, an actual human with expertise, to help you identify customized choices for your company.
You’ll want a human to present and navigate the facts, but more than that, having someone who becomes a trusted advisor allows you to believe in your purchase decision. The opportunity to speak one-on-one about health insurance options allows you to ask specific questions, become aware of pluses and minuses you couldn’t have discovered via tablet and, most importantly, find peace of mind that you’re making a smart decision.
Listening influences buying. Consider a scenario where you are shopping for new computer equipment or a professional services such as accounting or a public relations firm. It’s easy to look at a website to review someone’s qualifications, read case studies or learn the technical aspects of a manufactured product.
But often, in order to pull the trigger to buy, there needs be an indicator of certainty that a product or service will truly meet your needs, or alleviate current “pain.” A website alone cannot provide that assurance. There’s a tipping point that is reached, and from there, a knowledgeable salesperson enters the equation.
By asking a series of questions, the salesperson enables the buyer to express and explain their needs. During this time period, the wise salesperson lets the buyer talk 90 percent of the time. In the end, someone is more likely to buy when the feels they were listened to so that their problem will be solved.
Entrepreneurs who are doing the selling or the buying – whatever their role is in that moment – must understand the human elements of selling. Technology will never fully replace a buyer’s need for assurance and trust as they make important purchases.