From High Touch to Low Cost – A Disturbing Trend in B2B Selling?

Last year, new research from Forrester boldly predicted the Death of the B2B Sales Rep, making some stark forecasts:
  1. Much of B2B buying will not need sales reps anymore, and will move to lower cost self-service or inside sales reps.
  2. Over 1 million B2B salespeople would go the way of the dodo by 2020.
  3. 1 in 5 reps may be looking for a new career within the next 5 years.
On the heels of these forecasts, SiriusDecisions countered with research of their own. In a comprehensive buyer survey of over 1,000 decision makers, they found that:
  1. Sales rep engagement is positive in 85% of engagements, and material to a good customer experience and decision.
  2. B2B buyers interact with sales reps at every stage of the buyer's journey, not just at the tail end as other research estimated.
  3. The Sales Presentation is still the most valuable engagement in helping to drive a decision.
I had the pleasure of interviewing SiriusDecisions about their research over the summer, and the counter argument is comprehensive and compelling.

However, as we wrap up 2015, we have noticed a clear and present trend – B2B sales and their vital support groups are being reorganized at an alarming rate. Several leadership positions have been eliminated, and high touch consultants, specialists, architects and sales reps are being consolidated into larger groups, or replaced with in an attempt to get by on a lower touch / cost sales model.

Clearly, B2B execs are frustrated with the lack of sales growth and the fact that a mere 58% of reps are expected to make quota (CSO Insights 2015). This as the cost of sales reps, specialists, architects and business value consultants climbs ever higher. 

As Forrester predicted, B2B leaders are indeed cutting direct reps and their support teams, turning to the web and inside sales groups to try and reduce the perceived high cost of sale.

Will this work? And what is the true cost of the reallocation? Is this just another step towards the “Death of the B2B Sales Rep” or a temporary blip?

Join me in an important interview with Jim Ninivaggi, the Sales Enablement Practice Leader from SiriusDecisions, as we review the latest research for answers, and provide you the guidance you need to survive.

SiriusDecisions Interview - Why You Have to Get Value Selling Right –  Nov 12 at 11a ET - Register Now


I tend to agree that the "traditional" B2B salespersons will be extinct and this at an alarming rate.
Like the retail business, some level of rationalization is occurring, silently.
Every business is a customer and they understand the cost. With vertical integration through partnering with suppliers, these commercial agreements already have an impact on the salespersons.
The change in the buying methods and traditional buyer competencies, bring an impactful influence with this trend. What we can notice is that the buyers are well verse in their needs where the traditional B2B sales persons need to adapt to become facilitator for their company and bringing immediate value (ROI). The “new” salesperson becomes somewhat a subject matter expert where understanding the customer business, can aggregate a business solution (with associates) which solve the customer challenge meeting and improving the expenditure IRR target.
With today’s technology, the sale tasks of the “traditional” salesperson are being replaced through “self serve” technology.
Many companies Front Office organization need consistent re-evaluation where technology and customer/project tracking management (managing sale funnel/CRM) are blending.
Front office functions in many aspects needs to be automated while the ‘sale time’ of the business sale person is focused and embedded on their customer business. (ie: sharing best practice, bring adjacent technology etc).

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