SALES

Selling Face to Face Is Almost Obsolete

The new salesperson is "plugged into" an industry rather than plodding from customer to customer.
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Traditionally, business-to-business selling involves face-to-face conversations. However, the road warrior is becoming increasingly rare in the business world, according to a study by Dr. James Oldroyd, the world's top researcher in the mathematics of selling.

His research recently revealed that corporate hiring for "outside" sales positions had leveled off at a measly 0.5 percent annual growth. By contrast, corporate hiring for "inside" sales positions was growing 15 times faster!

Even salespeople who DO meet with customers face to face are doing so much less frequently than in the past. Oldroyd's study revealed that more than two-fifths of all customer conversations conducted by "outside" salespeople are done over the phone.

The shift away from face-to-face selling is driving many top companies to hire and cultivate people who can become subject-matter experts and communicate with customers with a combination of email, phone, texting, social media, and Web conferencing.

Oddly, the sales training world doesn't seem to have caught up with this trend. Probably 90 percent of the sales training courses available assume that there will be face-to-face meetings. The other 10 percent cover cold calling.

Every day I get emails from business owners and salespeople who are struggling to adapt to this new way of selling. The problem is that they're attempting to use selling concepts and skills that are rapidly becoming obsolete.

If you read Sales Source regularly, you've probably noticed that I seldom post about sales situations that depend on a face-to-face meeting (e.g., "having a great handshake" or "dress for success"). Now you know why.

Over the next few months, I'm going to put an extra emphasis on ideas and techniques that are particularly appropriate for this new kind of selling environment. So if your job involves selling, you might want to sign up for my Twitter feed or my free newsletter.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Feb 8, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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