Can the sales force adapt?

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Published on November 06, 2014 with No Comments

If advertising could be compared to weapons for “waging an air war,” then salespeople could be considered as the foot soldiers in the ground campaign. At least this is how business researcher Walter Friedman of the Harvard Business School sees it. Throughout American history, salesmen were the people who went around dispensing information about products and innovations, while advertising differentiated products according to features. All of it driving business through competition and customer relationships. But now some believe sales people are a disappearing breed and that this trend is bad for the American economy. No other job category has experienced such a dramatic drop, said business writer James Ledbetter. The percentage of sales jobs in America in the most recent census is the same as it was in 2000 – near 11 percent.
By the early twentieth century, no other nation had a sales force as highly organized as in America. But just as sales of refrigerators killed the ice delivery business, the Internet is thought to be heralding the death, or at the very least, the dwindling of the salesperson. Buy or download a book or some music, live stream a flick, search Amazon or eBay, Overstocks or Carsoup and pretty soon the Internet has replaced a few human sales workers. Plus there are regulations about drug companies marketing to doctors and the auto industry crisis. Ledbetter laments that the sales force is, “a pillar of the middle class,” and that without it there are lots of high-skill, high paying jobs and low-skill, low-paying jobs, essentially gutting the middle. Of course this is just one point of view. Others might contend that throughout history the work force has adapted.

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