Ask any pharmacist about the frequency of pharmaceutical reps visiting these days compared to 10 years ago. The answer will be something like, “fewer….far fewer”. Ask the same question in retail hardware in regards to their relevant product supplier company reps visit patterns – you can pick a Bunnings or a little independent to ask………..same result, “fewer …. far fewer”. Try any wine/liquor outlet………….ditto above. In fact, you could just about apply my test to any product based, multi-site retail channel scenario …. the answer will be the same or similar.

So, are we seeing the demise of the on-the-road salesforce in these types of industries?

Well ……… maybe …………but we shouldn’t be.

I believe that this phenomenon is a result of the product based supplier companies not re-inventing their sales engines and salesforce effectiveness quickly enough for the changing landscape. The importance of the activities undertaken by the Sales Exec in the store to facilitate order taking, fix up problems for the customer, and promote new products has progressively been eroded by technology supported DIY ordering and stock management processes, improved Customer Service Team functions for issue resolution, and web based mechanisms for customer (self) education, including new product information.

Today’s vanguard, leading sales organisations have re-engineered the role of the Sales Exec and their interface with the customer to fill the void with forms of advisory, consultation and business insight sharing, so that customers enjoy new forms of value perception in their relationship with the Supplier company reps. A great opportunity exists for many many other such organisations to make this refocussing investment in the role of the salesforce, and thereby redefine the term salesforce effectiveness. This will be the new competitive advantage. And if the pendulum swings far enough …. We have a sanguine answer to the question about the demise of the on-the-road salesforce in these types of industries.