Is it the Death of the Salesperson?
Has eCommerce truly put the need for the salesperson to rest?
by Chia-Li Chien | Jan. 18, 2012
When I was in elementary school in Taipei, Taiwan, my mom was a schoolteacher. At that time, she also had her own four school-aged children to juggle just like any other working mom. Every day, she made sure that each of us got a nutritious breakfast, lunch and good grades in school. When living in a metropolitan city like Taipei, everything is about convenience. So right next door to our condo complex, there was this mom and pop convenience store we called the Wan’s. As a good neighbor, my mom wanted to support the Wan’s. So she contracted with them to provide breakfast for her four children.
Each morning, I stopped by the Wan’s store to pick out my choice of Taiwanese bread and a drink to go. Then I was on my way to catch the bus. As it turned out, many of the neighbors decided they wanted the same service. So the Wan’s store started distributing these delicious and nutritious, easy to go breakfasts. I never had to worry about paying—the Wan’s settled that with my mom on a weekly or monthly basis. With that one smart decision to outsource our breakfasts, my mom was relieved of a huge part of her morning responsibilities—a cue even other mothers took!
When the Wan’s collected payment from my mom, they updated her on our favorite choices from their freshly baked to-go items. What the Wan’s provided is like today’s affiliated network marketing (network marketing, or multi-level marketing such as NuSkin, Amway or direct sell like Mary Kay or even on-line shopping distributorships). Wan’s store acted as that retail distributor which provided face-to-face service to my mom and others in the neighborhood.
“Everything old is new again!” That’s something I heard over and over growing up. Fast-forward to today’s highly technologically connected society. There is much more choice and convenience in terms of shopping on-line—from selection to ordering to service. So what’s missing? I think it’s the one-on-one personal connection. Today, there is a surge of one-on-one and face-to-face selling going on today. Nothing new— it just has even more challenges and demands now.
You can argue that this type of consumer service can be easily provided by the on-line retail box stores. Plus, customer service can provide that one-on-one personal touch over the phone. The convenience of ordering online allows retailers to identify shopping pattern as well as how to best service consumers.
Local community is still a big part of our everyday life. Even Wal-Mart, known for mass retailing products, also may carry many local products. Localization of any type of services and products has been a big part of many giant consumer companies. The question is how can a small-mid-sized business leverage localization efficiently to gain more revenue through the right distribution channels with or without a salesperson?
The Death of the Salesperson may be over-exaggerated even as eCommerce continues to boom in today’s world. Let’s take a look at when the banks rolled out ATM’s years ago. Did you see banks closing down their retail outlets as predicted? No. As matter of fact, more retail outlets opened as more on-line banking and ATM’s became available.
Even with the onslaught of eBooks, more people are now buying books from Amazon and/or brick and mortar bookstores, regardless which media (print, eBook or even Kindle) is available. At the end of the day, humans are designed to interact with each other. The one-on-one or face-to-face interaction is still a big part of obtaining contracts, products, etc. Hence, the right customer service can win customers.
And if eCommerce is slowly killing off all the salespeople out there, why is there such a supply and demand for network marketing? One answer could be that perhaps the unemployment rate is high, or perhaps it could be attributed to the overwhelming information available on the Internet. But talking to a real person is still a choice many—if not most—people desire.
Ramping up your business revenue takes a mindful design in crafting your distribution channels. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, you must carefully use the right market makers to facilitate the distribution or distribute on your behalf. (Market makers are entities that have your exact ideal target customers.) Social networking can help to speed up the distribution if you target the right market makers with the right messaging.
One could still argue that death of the salesperson is true in regards to the dominance of eCommerce, especially in some markets and products, but I must argue that the salesperson has been transformed to a different form of distribution—the right market makers. So who are your market makers that can help you ramp up your revenue?
About Chia-Li Chien
Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; Chia-Li “like JOLLY!” A passionate leader of small business strategic equity value creation and implementation mastery. She is a globetrotting strategist, speaker and author. She is CEO and chief strategist of Value Growth Institute dedicated to creating business value that transforms your world. Capture meaningful personal wealth. Position your business for future transitioning.
Chia-Li is also a Midas Advisor to MidasNation, a community dedicated to helping private business owners increase the value of their firms. She is the award-winning author of Show Me The Money and faculty member of American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was recently named a top small business resource by the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog. You can watch a FREE video entitled "Navigating Through Today's Turbulent Business Waters!" at http://valuegrowthinstitute.com/vgi/webinar