The Salesman in the Gloaming

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The tragedy of the salesman Shelley “The Machine” Levene, the sympathetic figure played by Jack Lemmon in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross has never been more relevant. In Mamet’s play-turned-movie, Shelly can’t close anymore and splits his time between excuse-making and complaining until, through a combination of his desperation and boss’s cruelty, he is left hopeless in a shameful interview with the detective investigating his role in stealing the Glengarry leads.
Twenty years ago, CEOs salivated at the notion that the Internet might enable them to fire their expensive field sales force. Today, their customers and prospects are doing it for them.  Instead of embracing the change, however, today’s executives are pulling out their hair, desperate for their prospects to talk with their sales teams again. Marketing organizations have become discouraged SPAM jockeys, putting more and more emphasis on email campaigns designed to attract MQL’s or SQL’s, 99% of which never amount to anything. Sales teams are in agony because their customers won’t talk to them anymore. Worst of all, the buyers are frustrated because their potential suppliers refuse to support them in the ways they prefer.
If you’re a sales or marketing leader, ask your veteran sellers if their job is harder now. Nine out of ten will say yes, and the simple reason is their prospects don’t need them like they used to.
An idle salesperson is a broken dream. Salespeople’s self-esteem — as competitors, as artists, as advisors — is based on engaging with their clients in a way that makes a meaningful impact. Unfortunately, there’s a crisis in the world of B2B selling today, and until companies reorganize their sales and marketing teams, we’re going to be seeing more Shelley Levenes.
Most salespeople today are disenfranchised, but it’s not their fault: the problem is their executive management doesn’t understand how their customers evaluate and buy today. Retail is dead, and soon B2B will face the same reality. Buyers prefer to spend their time online rather than directly engaged with salespeople. Many of today’s experienced, valuable, and expensive salespeople should be brought into the digital marketing fold where their specific expertise can be tapped. Sadly, until CEO’s reallocate resources towards digital, more and more sales teams will be disenfranchised, doubting their value, in the gloaming of old-school sales models.

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