Automation has had a noticeable effect on American industries in the past decades. In 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, while jobs in the service sector had been steadily increasing since the late 1960’s, jobs in the manufacturing sector were decreasing since as far back as the 1940’s. So, while less Americans are participating in the creation of products, more Americans are participating in the servicing of their fellows. Whether they provide financial services, sales software programs, entertainment technology, or any other service, companies in our economy are increasingly committed to making everyone’s lives easier via service or product sales, not just by making clothes. But let's not assume that service jobs are clear of technology. Just recall every time you call customer service and you cannot possibly get a person to talk to you. The gist of it is, if a machine can do it, why not?
Let's be honest. Technology makes things easier. It cuts the labor cuts and replaces them with electricity bills that, sure, are higher than usual but still preferable. “Brainy” jobs are also going to machines configured with formulas and algorithms that can get the job done faster, easier, and cheaper.
And, whether you want to admit it or not, technology has a proven ability to improve conditions in the long run. Lets think way back to the agricultural revolution in the mid-1800’s. New transportation technology populated the barren Great Plains. Advanced farming techniques and tools facilitated the farming process, decreased time spent planting, weeding, cropping, and prepping the crops. Farmers now had the tools and time to make more, and to make it more efficiently. Today, computers are scraping the corners of the internet for consumer data, thus creating a customer profile more detailed than anything previous technology or surveyors could have provided. As angry as the average American might be about automation, the financial benefits are clear. Save money, make money, do it better.
Despite this clarity, the strain between job creation and technology persists. Financial logic does not equal acceptance or understanding. Furthermore, financial well-being for one corporate group does not mean financial well-being for another, more mechanically-replaceable group. As far back as the 1800’s, British folk, famously called Luddites, smashed and destroyed the machinery they believed was supplanting them in their job. Though no instances of such anger have been displayed now, the resentment against automation persists.
So where does this put salespeople? Where do salespeople stand in this muck of technological displacement? Surprisingly, they’re not doing too bad.
Sales is a difficult job to be filled. Despite its quantitative demands, sales is inherently personable. The transactions that involve salespeople usually require an extra push, a couple of ounces of persuasion that an ad or webpage cannot provide. Customers need that human motivation to buy a product or service. Companies can build a great product (they probably should too). They can surround it with sleek or colorful advertisement backgrounds. But in the end, a salesperson will be the face that delivers the product and represents the service.
And let's not forget that being called mechanical and impersonal, all adjectives too closely related to technology, is no compliment nor characteristic of a good salesperson. Unless we see the “Transcendence” in the next couple of years, the paramount difference between people and computers remains. People can provide the trust and confidence that companies need from their customers. Again, you want a person to help you during your phone call to customer service. Salespeople are the human liaison that makes customers trust companies. And, as numerous customer service ratings and reviews can testify, that trust is an asset to the company. Beat that, fancy info graphics.
So for now field sales people, revel in the uniqueness of your job! It is not yet time for the sales occupation to rise as a Luddite against the machines. For now, lets just remember that, even if it might be your job to sell those machines, nothing can sell it better than you. People buy from people they like, and it is hard to really like someone that you’ve never met. So field sales will likely be with us for the foreseeable future.