Research shows that up to 40 per cent of Australian jobs could disappear in the next decade and it’s not just blue-collar workers feeling the pinch, as technology continues to make many traditional jobs redundant.
The humble salesperson has been one of the most unsung victims of the tech boom and the trend towards buyer self-service and automation in the business community. Conventional wisdom for business these days seems to hold that with the internet you can sell to a global market from day one and if you make good enough products they will sell themselves.
Companies like Atlassian boast about achieving global scale without needing an expensive salesforce and investors routinely mark down emerging companies that require a team of salespeople to get to market.
From transportation to accommodation, technological disruption has been a boon for consumers but often we forget there’s been little safety net for the many operating under the old models that are now being swept away. In many instances the new jobs that have been created require vastly different skillsets and the ability for people to shift across to these new job growth areas is easier in theory than in practice.
With recent Forrester estimates revealing that one million B2B sales jobs will be axed in the U.S. by 2020, the role of the 96,000+ B2B salespeople locally risks being cut out of the business equation altogether.
So what does this mean for the thousands of salespeople fighting for survival? Is it simply up to people to adapt or perish in the face of technological change or can we use innovation to ensure we access the productivity and quality of life benefits technology brings, without leaving a huge portion of the workforce behind?
Salespeople need to fast rethink their approach, innovate their thinking and embrace the future of the Australian economy. And start-ups are the future, with PwC research revealing that start-ups in Australia alone have the potential to contribute $100B to the GDP and create half a million new jobs by 2033.
Because the reality is most Australian start-ups cannot live up to the Atlassians and Deputys of the world who drive sales through a bottom-up approach, instead of onboarding traditional sales reps.
Most start-ups are still dependent on the abilities of their sales teams to convincingly showcase their product and/or service to convert leads to paying customers, and grow the business. A brilliant idea or product backed by even the most well-respected VC’s is useless if a start-up lacks the vigour and sales expertise required to bring in those critical early customers and revenue streams.
Start-ups’ sales approach needs rethinking however as they currently face a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, they have to pay out an arm and a leg hiring, training and managing new internal salespeople — according to Sales Hacker’s Sales Metrics Report, the average tenure of a B2B salesperson is 1.4 years (which works out costing a business roughly AU$148K each time a sales person is exited).
As this is often too costly and cumbersome, start-ups otherwise opt for delegating the sales role to existing, inexperienced employees. And you can just imagine the negative affect this will have on a businesses’ bottom-line.
So as the recent Startup Muster findings reveal that two of the three top priorities for start-ups over the next 12 months are to expand sales significantly inside Australia (64.9 per cent) and expand sales significantly outside Australia (43.1 per cent), businesses need to focus on becoming more agile, reactive and flexible.
These macro changes are precisely the reason I co-founded SalesTribe, a two-sided marketplace that provides start-ups with an assessment of their go-to market plans and equips salespeople with a range of assessments and programs in order to match the two together and maximise business outcomes. Because start-ups need new customers but they don’t want to hire too many fixed cost employees who might be spending a huge portion of their time idle, and salespeople are needed more than ever but are being suffocated under the traditional corporate model.
No-one deserves to be left behind or to struggle as the business landscape continues to shift at large in Australia. Systems and approaches need to be overhauled to become more economically sound for start-ups and emerging businesses and salespeople need to get on board and embrace the disruption, or face a very uncertain future.
Graham Hawkins is co-founder of SalesTribe
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