What is the current reality telling us about what the next reality will look like for corporate field-based sales teams?
For many B2B sales organisations, the first quarter of the current century will be punctuated by two cataclysms. The GFC and …….. now………Corona/Covid19. One of the manifestations for many B2B sales organisations following the GFC, particularly those in mature sectors, was the reduction in the number and size of territory based, mobile sales teams. The GFC spawned a new age of commoditisation and a race to the bottom characterised by discounting and margin erosion. The corollary? A bilateral prosecution of the value of the expensive mobile sales team. Bilateral in the sense that the customer collectively voiced the view that the value added by the visiting Sales Exec beyond relationship progressively diminished as commoditisation increased. In turn then, the employing sales organisations, aided by the rise and rise of e-commerce similarly questioned the value of the sales team. And insidiously cut and squeezed accordingly.
Now, in the current, very uncomfortable environment, many on-the-road sales teams have been pulled off the road. And “forced” to communicate with customers remotely via any of the plethora of video platforms. I posit that this forced way of communicating will in turn encourage customers and sales organisations to consider whether this medium of facilitating the role between the Sales Exec and the customer may in fact be more desirable in many cases than a return to the reliance on face to face, on-site meetings. The incessant rise of e-commerce, inexorable commoditisation of goods and services in many sectors, and the crippling increase in drive time from one customer site to another as traffic congestion continues to cruel the equation of value added by the Sales Exec / account manager.
I foresee an indelible legacy on the other side of Corona for the B2B sales team in the shape of ………
- Another wave of downsizing
- With sales organisations rebalancing away from resourcing on-the-road, face-to-face Sales exec-customer visits
- And restructuring so that all customer interactions that do not NEED on-site presence will be executed
- By zoom for the higher level, non-transactional value adds and relationship maintenance
- And increased telesales resourcing where e-commerce support is required
What do you think?