May 7th, 2015 | by

By 2020, the B2B SALESMAN WILL BE DEAD. Or at least that’s what a recent report by Forrester Research, an independent and leading research company in the marketing and technology space, has predicted.

The author, Andy Hoar, outlines the following as major contributors to this demise:

  1. B2B buyer preferences have fundamentally shifted from speaking with a sales rep 1-on-1 to a self-education ecommerce type model for purchasing.
  2. B2B seller activity remains 1-on-1 focused with forced interactions with sales reps while B2B consumer behavior has shifted to a self-service model.
  3. Ecommerce systems will eliminate 1 million B2B sales jobs by 2020 due to the shift to self-service platforms.
  4. B2B companies must respond by implementing digitally-enabled selling models and they must think beyond the front line of sales representatives and create solutions for call center agents, inside sales reps, and the rest of the sales engine network.


The crux of Mr. Hoar’s thesis is that people prefer buying online vs. from a person.

The first presumption underlying this theory is that people can first of all obtain, and second of all truly understand, the breadth and depth of B2B offerings by doing online research. Anyone who has sold a B2B software or hardware product knows that the nuances in one software versus another are vast, requiring more education that can be gleaned from an eBook or datasheet download.

Hoar states,

“The days of flipping through a B2B catalog or talking to a B2B company sales or call center representative to learn about a particular product or service are over. Now B2B buyers educate themselves online throughout most of the buying process, often wherever they find the highest-quality information and have the best browsing experience.”

The second presumption underlying this is the idea that buyers KNOW exactly what they want, which is simply impossible in a digital world where new technologies and solutions are popping up every day. Buyers are consistently inundated with products, technologies and solutions.

Consider Marketing Technology vendors and their target audience: marketers. Looking at this study of available MarTech solutions, ( ) the number of technologies between 2011 and 2015 grew more than 18x – between 2014 and 2015 the numbered doubled.

DiscoverOrg CEO Responds to Forrester's Death of the Salesman report DiscoverOrg CEO Responds to Forrester's Death of the B2B Salesman Report

(Source: )

(Here is a link to the Supergraphic that will let you zoom to see all of the companies in 2015:

You’d have to be delusional to think that the modern marketer (the buyer in this scenario) has any idea what all these technologies are – and if they don’t know WHAT they are, then they simply can’t be researching them online and doing “pre-purchase research.” You can’t research what you don’t know exists.

And THAT is why there will be no death of a B2B Salesperson – there may be a rejiggering of them – to focus on adding consultative value and EDUCATING the buyer about what their solution set does and what it offers, but they will not die.  That is a fundamentally mistaken point. Besides, we are talking about salesmen here. Do you really think they won’t be able to sell their way out of this?

But for those of you who are on the front-lines, what do you think? What changes have you seen that affect your ability as a real-live person to sell products and services? Has the digital revolution had a positive or negative impact on your sales cycle?


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Henry Schuck
About the author

Henry Schuck

Henry Schuck is the CEO of DiscoverOrg, an 8-time Fortune 5000 company, which he co-founded at the age of 23. He has extensive experience managing the sales and marketing activities of fast-growing information technology data companies.