Is Sales A Dying Profession?

A commenter on the 'A Sales Guy' blog asked this question the other day and Jim Keenan posed the question to his readers. There's a decent discussion on this topic on his blog so I recommend checking it out. Here's my answer:

Short version: Absolutely Not.

Longer version: Before you can answer the question of whether or not sales is going away, you have to define what salespeople do.  To me, salespeople make connections and tell stories that allow products to be diffused into the market at a faster pace and on a wider scale than they would be if a salesperson wasn't involved.  So companies hire salespeople when they believe that the investment in those people will be outweighed by the incremental revenue that will be produced from their activity.

That said, the commenter is right that because of the internet there are some products that can be sold to enterprises without the involvement of a salesperson.  But that doesn't mean salespeople are going away, it just means that salespeople will have to continue to adapt to selling those things that can't be sold off the shelf -- this means more complex sales and more innovative products.  This has always been true -- products adapt and salespeople adapt.

If a company decides that they can rest on their laurels and its products are so refined that they don't need people out making connections and speeding up the diffusion of their innovative products into the market, then salespeople aren't going away, that company is going away.  

In short, if a company feels like it doesn't need salespeople then that company either isn't innovating or doesn't have very ambitous goals.