A new report from Forrester Research called “Death of a B2B Salesman,” predicts that one million U.S. B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.

Fears over technology eliminating sales jobs is nothing new, it happened following the advent of both the phone and Internet.  Fortunately, the salesperson didn’t die then, they adapted, and according to a multitude of recent studies, the sales industry is evolving and actually entering a period of expansion.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects employment of sales managers will increase by eight percent through 2022, while employment of sales engineers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives are expected to grow by nine percent.

The 2015 CareerBuilder.com U.S. Job Forecast Study ranks sales jobs as the number one job employers are currently looking to fill, ranking 10% higher than technical positions.  This is a significant increase from even last year when sales also ranked number one.   In addition, the CSO Insights 2015 Sales Performance Optimization survey shows more than 70% of companies plan to add sales reps over the next 12 months.

Amidst fear and speculation, the facts demonstrate that B2B businesses across North America are making strategic investments to staff their sales department with high-achieving, technologically savvy salespeople to bridge the gap between buyers and sellers that technology cannot fill.

I’ve seen first-hand the growth in the B2B sales industry… Here are six reasons why technology will not represent the death of the B2B salesperson.

  • STUDIES SHOW B2B BUYERS WANT SALESPEOPLE INVOLVED EARLIER: New research from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), shows that 70% of B2B buyers want to engage with salespeople early in the sales process. ITSMA did the research with almost 300 senior executives who were buying complex solutions valued at over $500,000.
  • MARKETING DISINTERMEDIATION: While in many companies, marketing might be the primary owner of the digital relationship, in companies where the transaction value or complexity is above a certain threshold, the sales team needs to get involved early to help shape and develop opportunities. Ultimately, when large amounts of money are involved in B2B purchases, buyers want to deal directly with a human being to develop a relationship, perhaps negotiate and acquire certain assurances.
  • BUYERS INCREASINGLY EXPECT CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS: In the age of solution sales, buyers expect solutions to be customized for their unique requirements. Since buyers are more informed about their needs, they expect an informed seller who can add value beyond that supplied by online marketing materials. A salesperson is needed to accommodate a more complex buying environment. Direct one-to-one interaction and conversations are still absolutely critical and necessary.
  • OUTBOUND SALES NEEDED TO DRIVE NEW BUSINESS: While digital marketing departments are equipped to handle inbound inquiries, to really drive revenue a company needs aggressive and effective outbound sales teams to achieve growth. Outbound salespeople are the critical drivers of new business opportunities.
  • HIGH COST OF SALES AUTOMATION AND DIGITAL MARKETING: Senior executives who are determined replace their sales division in order to save money should understand that the cost of leveraging sales automation and digital marketing technology is actually very high.  It requires many core competencies, a willingness to invest big dollars, along with a high degree of risk.
  • TECHNOLOGY ENHANCING RELATIONSHIPS, NOT REPLACING THEM: Through social media and big data, the amount of information we have about our clients has never been higher. As a result, selling is more scientific and structured today than ever before.  The top percentile of salespeople are technologically savvy and inclined to use every tool and piece of data available to them to win business.   The ability to know more about the purchasing habits of consumers allows sales teams unprecedented ability to foster strong relationships.

There is no denying that digital marketing and e-commerce are dramatically changing the way we do business.  However, the businesses that adapt and incorporate new technology comprehensively across their organization to complement their sales teams will beat out their competitors.