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The Death of the Sales Executive: Are They Still Needed?

3 minute read

Mark Blezard, Sales Director at Sales Skills Audit, questions the need for sales executives due to the increase in online sales. So, what is the future of the sales executive: is it really so bleak?

Great news employers, we no longer need sales executives. That's right, sack them all and funnel the savings into your next dividend. No more bonus payouts, no more territory disputes, and the end of huge commission cheques.

Seriously? How can this be so? Because we all sell online now, clicking buttons, firing off emails, liking posts. It's simple, we can write an algorithm to do these menial tasks. For example, does this sound familiar? "Hey, John, did you follow-up that sales lead from the US?" John, "Yes, I've emailed them but not heard back yet."

Or, how about this, "Sue, have we got our foot in the door of Billingham Widgets yet?" Sue, "Almost boss, I've sent them an email and we're following them on LinkedIn and Instagram."

Even worse, "Do you know why Pilkington Corp has stopped ordering?" Answer; "We think they've gone out of business. I emailed them a dozen times, they've stopped replying and their website is down?"


Too many of sales development representatives (SDRs) think sales is a purely online engagement. And the more they do online the more their telephone skills go down the toilet. Furthermore, the irony of this is that prospects have started answering calls again whilst ghosting emails. The telephone works!

Now, add the arrival of AI and this ethos, left unattended, will spread like a fungus. The longer management accept that a sales floor emits no sounds other than the tapping of keyboards, the worse the situation becomes – to the point of a sales force actually fearing the phone.

So, what’s the solution?

Sales managers must enforce cold calling schedules during the week, even if just a couple of two-hour slots where the phone is their ONLY weapon.

I made this suggestion to one of our assessment users. His reply was, “Why? They usually only deal with inbound enquiries.”

I explained that being forced to engage with a stranger (aka a future prospect) will keep them sharp. Not only will they need to hone their selling skills but they will need to refresh themselves with all of your products’ USPs. If they can do this, inbound enquiries will be dealt with far more lucratively.

And, if an organisation recognises that their sales force has fallen into this trap, then some training and coaching will probably be called for. So here are my top five cold calling tips:

  1. Like an athlete, exercise before a session. Warm up physically, get the blood flowing and breathing open.
  2. Stand up when using the phone. How many concerts have you attended where the lead singer sits?
  3. Plan in advance what you want, number of leads, appointments, pitches. What will ‘good’ look like and how will you know when you are done?
  4. Practice your 'killer intro.' Remember, you have less than 10 seconds to hook the prospect by being interesting and intelligent. Don’t try and pitch the product, sell yourself as being worth time for a serious, scheduled, slot.

My 5th tip is to track your session. Everyone will have a conversion rate of how many 'dials' lead to a contact. Document this so that you can improve upon it. If it takes 5 dials to reach someone (a contact) and 5 'contacts' to get an appointment, fine. You now know that you need to simply dial 25 numbers to get an appointment. Now the job is becoming more manageable and less like a roulette wheel. A “No” is a step closer to the “Yes.”

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