Have you already started letting your salespeople go?

Miha Breskvar / / Sales

The time is coming when the entire buying process will take place without sellers and buyers. When we no longer decide ourselves what we need and when, and from whom to buy it, because devices will do that for us.

To be clear, by “sellers” I don’t mean providers and by “buyers” I don’t mean those with needs or desires. What I have in mind is the individuals that are physically involved in the buying process. It’s also true that this doesn’t apply everywhere and that it’ll still take some time for it to apply to all the products or services in all industries, which may also never happen at all. People will still want to take an active part in the buying process for quite some time, because if nothing else it’s a unique and desired experience. In turn, salespeople will stay part of the buying process for exactly the same reasons.

For areas to which this does apply Forrester predicts that one million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs within the next three years. It can be logically concluded that these will primarily be the ones that collect orders and finalize purchases, providing the lowest added value in the process.

Too many steps in the buying process drive buyers away

In terms of sales, the selling process must be as simple and as frictionless as possible because every step that causes additional strain for the buyer significantly impacts sales.

We need to make the purchase simple. The less the buyers click, the more likely they are to buy from us. Click To Tweet

Purchase friction reminds me of the hypothesis presented at a meeting we held on the fourth industrial revolution. The event was tied to our translation of the book The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab, which 13,000 people have already downloaded for free. The overall conclusion was that if the book had cost one euro, it would’ve been downloaded by a few dozen or hundred people, at most. Not because the book wouldn’t have been worth the euro, but because the effort required to make the payment would’ve been too great. If the payment could have been made through a fingerprint or on a vending machine, most people would’ve paid for the book.

Be one step ahead of the customer

Let me illustrate the same thing with another example, such as the purchase of printer cartridges. Before you keep on reading, stop for a moment and think about what steps you take every time you buy new cartridges for your printer.

We pretty much all do the same thing: we wait until the computer or printer warns us that we need to replace the cartridges. Because we’re right in the middle of printing and we’re already sitting behind the computer, the next step is quite logical: we search for new cartridges on Google. In turn, Google gives us ten hits, nine of which are offers for fake or refilled ink cartridges. The printer producer or distributor has already lost its deal at that moment.

But the buyer is far from being done. He must first find out which dealers are reliable, which ones deliver to Slovenia, and which ones charge less for shipping than the cartridge itself, so the package won’t be held up in customs. In addition, he must also make the online purchase by registering at an online store, entering his delivery address and credit card info, and completing the purchase.

Modern customers will only be happy when printers order new cartridges and cars order new tires on their own. Click To Tweet

The producer and its distributors only stand a chance if they’re one step ahead of the customers and simplify the purchase for them as much as possible by starting the selling process before they start buying. They should send a 1-click offer for new cartridges even before the low ink warning appears on the customer’s computer screen. Because the purchase is simpler and because the customers already know the dealer, they are considerably more likely to make the purchase.

Another good example is the Amazon Dash Button. The entre buying process consists of two steps: a click on the button when you’re out of laundry detergent and a purchase confirmation on your smartphone (to prevent your children from ordering an entire container).

Click, click, click

Sooner or later even the click on a physical dash button or a button within an app or e-mail will no longer be needed. On the one hand, providers will monitor and know our behavior and that of our devices extremely well, and on the other, customers will overcome their fears and build trust in the providers. The provider will send us a new package in a timely fashion without any interaction on our part based on our supply of laundry detergent or used-up quantity of ink.

And there’s a multitude of other examples and areas of this kind. Most people insure their cars by taking out “the same insurance as last year.” Do we really need to go see our insurance agent each time? I believe we no longer even need an online process for this.

It’s not about how expensive it is, but how much of our time it takes. Click To Tweet

At this point, new cars already know better than the driver when they need a service and most likely also which new tires would be the best fit for them and when it would be best to replace them. When the car places a service or tire replacement order by itself, and coordinates it with our schedules, the process will take place without a seller and a buyer. With self-driving cars, we’ll only find out that our car has been serviced and that its tires have been replaced once we get in the car.

A world without sellers and buyers

OK, some of this may still be a little unrealistic and strange and hence socially unacceptable, but there are some facts we can’t ignore. Ask yourself what you would do if you downloaded our Slovenian translation of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Would you pay for it if it only took one click? And what would you do if you had to register at an online store, enter your credit card info, and complete three more steps in order to make the online purchase?

For me the question is no longer whether there’ll be increasingly more purchases that include no seller and buyer, but how we can adapt to these changes and where the opportunities lie.

What about you?


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