By Tom Fournier
Through years of working in business to business sales, many of these years as a sales representative and many out working with countless other sales representatives, I came across many sales representatives that considered themselves the relationship seller. They were the route salesperson who would regularly check in with their customers, with ready access to the customer’s store room to see what needed to be reordered, they always had time for a chat, they were quick to share a funny story or joke and for a really good customer they would bring in a box of donuts.
Do you have relationship sellers? If so, watch out!
That was then. The business world has changed. Those days are gone. The buyers for your customers have changed, particularly in their demographic and their relationship with technology.
From a recent B2B oriented research paper:
60% of B2B Buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep. 
Simple or transactional orders are increasingly being routed through self-service, online channels. This must be offered or the risk will be losing these orders to pure web plays
I think this trend will continue to grow.
Buyers in key customers are working in an environment where management hierarchies have been flattened, operations have been streamlined and everyone is being encouraged to do more with less. In this hectic, fast paced environment they do not want a relationship seller coming to hang out.
How do you reach these customers?
You support them with a good, functional website. It has to have a very good customer experience or your customers will get frustrated and migrate to a site that offers that experience. Simple self service, low value transactions can and should be done through a website.
You need to generate “customer touches” that are not time intrusive.
This can be a phone call from an inside sales resource, it can be through a digital marketing strategy and by a social selling platform.
When the customer needs the support of an outside sales person (a product demonstration, walking through the elements of a complex solution, etc.) you have the regular relationship and interactions to know the timing of the need and direct the appropriate sales resource at the right moment.
What happens with your outside sales representatives? This will sound harsh, they are an expensive resource and you should not be paying them for sales for which they have had no current role or accountability. It is too tough a business environment and margins are too competitive to be paying for legacy sales.
You need your outside representatives to be qualifying and opening new high value business opportunities and supporting high gain, complex sales with current customers. Compensation can be shifted to reflect this change in focus.
This is what your customers want and need.
They do not like donuts.
 Death Of A (B2B) Salesman: Two Years Later. 2017 Forrester Research Inc. Page 3
 Death Of A (B2B) Salesman: Two Years Later. 2017 Forrester Research Inc. Page 2
Tom Fournier, founder of the Shade's Mills Group, history enthusiast and happy walker!