Your Evolving Role as a Sales Rep in the Digital Age

Posted by David Chism | Wed, Jan 14, 2015

 Your Evolving Role as a Sales Rep in the Digital Age

Remem­ber When…

Remem­ber the gold­en years of the sales rep? From late 1999 up until around 2007, being a sales­per­son in the home improve­ment world was, for lack of a bet­ter phrase, pret­ty darn good and reward­ing. Sure, you had to have some sales skills and be pleas­ant with peo­ple, but over­all it was fair­ly smooth sailing.

Most of my own for­mal sales train­ing took place in the ear­ly 2000s. There was a lot of com­pe­ti­tion, but mar­ket­ing dur­ing those years was not real­ly that hard. The phone just seemed to ring and leads knocked at the door with what, at times, seemed like very lit­tle effort. The sales­per­son would go out to the home, do a lit­tle bit of mea­sur­ing, take the order, and close the job at a good and prof­itable price. Times were good!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Then, just like that, 2008 hit and the phone decid­ed to stop ring­ing. At the same time, web leads came to a screech­ing halt. Sud­den­ly you found your­self won­der­ing how exact­ly you were going to sell with­out the leads being hand­ed to you on a sil­ver plat­ter (as a side note, I was one of those sales­men, so the fin­ger in this post is point­ed direct­ly at me!). We did not exact­ly know it then, but it was the start of a new era, and busi­ness own­ers, sales reps, and mar­keters were all won­der­ing who to blame and what to do about it.

Some­thing Had to Change

In ear­ly 2010, I remem­ber one larg­er paint­ing con­trac­tor telling me that he was ready to fire one of his key sales reps. I was floored and could not imag­ine that he would actu­al­ly do it since the sales­per­son was an impres­sive clos­er. There was no way he would be eas­i­ly replaced. I couldn’t help but won­der, though, why the own­er of this busi­ness would be so close to fir­ing one of his best employ­ees. As I came to find out, leads were still at a his­toric low and his sales staff was putting the blame and respon­si­bil­i­ty sole­ly on the mar­ket­ing team. In oth­er words, they were say­ing it wasn’t their fault that they weren’t sell­ing. They essen­tial­ly want­ed to be fed their leads (remem­ber that sil­ver plat­ter I men­tioned?). As it turns out, the own­er sim­ply want­ed his sales staff to get more involved in lead gen­er­a­tion, and expect­ed them to prospect and take part in com­mu­ni­ty events.

Mar­ket­ing and Sales Must Work Together

Almost 5 years lat­er, that sales rep has his same job, and he is still a dyna­mite clos­er and inte­gral part of the con­tract­ing com­pa­ny. He took to heart what his boss had to say and stepped up to the chal­lenge. Leads are a bit more free-flow­ing again, but he still has to spend a por­tion of his time dur­ing the year net­work­ing and build­ing rela­tion­ships. Oh, and he is a real nat­ur­al at it too.

So, What Is the Miss­ing Link for a Sales Rep?

Mar­cus Sheri­dan of The Sales Lion recent­ly wrote an arti­cle in which he made the bold pre­dic­tion that by 2020: The cur­rent mod­el of sales reps,” espe­cial­ly in the B2B space, will be prac­ti­cal­ly extinct.” To read more of the con­text in which he made this state­ment I’ll post the full arti­cle below. I think you will find it quite intriguing.

I believe that what Mar­cus shared in his blog post is very accu­rate IF a sales rep does not embrace and get involved in qual­i­ty social media plat­forms, also known as con­tent mar­ket­ing.” A sales­per­son can­not get by any­more with just being an order-tak­er, but must instead rely on proac­tive con­tent mar­ket­ing. Build­ing rela­tion­ships and trust face-to-face will always have its place, but today many of the seeds are plant­ed online because that is where most con­sumers begin their research. This has been the sky­rock­et­ing trend over the last few years and will only increase in the next 5 years, help­ing to make Sheridan’s pre­dic­tion not so much a spec­u­la­tion, but a log­i­cal next step. If a sales rep wants to stay in the game and be suc­cess­ful, he or she will need to jump with both feet into the dig­i­tal world of con­tent marketing.

How to Get Started

If you are in sales and read­ing this arti­cle, you most like­ly have a Linkedin account, unless a friend or cowork­er for­ward­ed this to you. I would strong­ly sug­gest that you not only use Linkedin, but tru­ly uti­lize it. What I mean is, rather than just make it a plat­form where you read arti­cles, actu­al­ly get involved in the con­ver­sa­tions. Join forums, share qual­i­ty arti­cles with oth­ers, make con­nec­tions and start shar­ing your own wis­dom! That’s right! It’s okay to be who you are and to be vul­ner­a­ble. Be pro­fes­sion­al, but don’t wor­ry about always pro­ject­ing only the most pol­ished ver­sion of your­self. You have noth­ing to hide. Your prospects want to buy from real peo­ple that they like and trust, and if you become that per­son they trust online you will gain a cus­tomer for life.

If Linkedin is not your thing, find anoth­er social media plat­form and stick to it. Start a blog, con­nect with peo­ple on Twit­ter, Face­book or Google+. If you are a con­trac­tor or design­er, I’d strong­ly sug­gest Houzz​.com.

Read Mar­cus Sheridan’s blog post 5 Dra­mat­ic Shifts That Will Occur in Sales and Mar­ket­ing by the Year 2020.

As always, let me know what you think and how you plan on get­ting your whole team involved in mar­ket­ing in the months and years to come.

*pho­tos cred­it: shutterstock

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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