The Future Of Professional Sales

Tony Hughes

I caught up recently with Graham Hawkins (Founder & CEO of SalesTribe) to discuss his new book, The Future of the Sales Profession, which has achieved Amazon International Best Seller Status. Graham's opinions all stem from his research and focus on "Voice of the Customer" (VoC).

"If salespeople want to know exactly what buyers value, simply just go and ask them" - Graham Hawkins

Graham is NOT one of those opinionated and self-proclaimed sales guru's but is instead the 'real deal'. He has almost three decades of B2B sales experience having sold to large corporations at the highest level. Below is a video recording of his keynote: The future of B2B Sales.

Graham's hallmark is humble pragmatism, having been born and raised the son of a potato farmer and a school teacher. "Country folks are nearly always practical and straight forward.In his latest book, Graham describes how accelerated technological change is eroding the role of salespeople, and he's absolutely right. Salespeople need to take control of pipeline development and also specialize. The illustration below is from his latest book.

You don't need to look far to see evidence of exactly what Graham is saying:

  • 63% of B2B sales people are failing to meet of exceed quota (HBR)
  • Average tenure for B2B sale people is now 16.8 months (Sales Hacker)
  • 75% of buyers prefer to self-serve, thus, avoiding the salesperson where possible (Forrester)
  • The Marketing Technology industry is a $30B sector that didn't exist 10 years ago.

Salespeople are becoming the unsung victims of the tech boom and the trend towards buyer self-service and automation in the business community, and depending on which analyst you believe there is no doubt that large numbers of traditional B2B field salespeople will lose their jobs in the coming years. We both agreed that around 25% of B2B sales people will be forced into other careers over the coming 3-5 years, and when you consider that there are around 15 million B2B salespeople currently employed around the world today, that means a massive number of people will be facing a major change in the near future.

Yes, it's a somewhat bleak outlook, but there are things that we can all be doing to adapt.

Interestingly, as a result of the research that Graham conducted for his book, he told me that he began to see a glaring gap in the market for a business that can actually help salespeople. Graham has just recently launched SalesTribe which is a new business that has been designed to help re-purpose sales people to get their careers reconnected into existing new opportunities. Graham believes, that salespeople need to rapidly reassess their approach, innovate their thinking and embrace the future. And start-ups are the future, with PwC research revealing that start-ups in Australia alone have the potential to contribute $100 billion to the GDP and create half a million new jobs by 2033. Lots of small businesses need professional sales capability but the traditional recruitment models are no longer cost effective as margins continue to get squeezed in most industries.

When you also consider the on-going rise of the 'Gig Economy' and changing nature of employment and workplace dynamics, Graham is clearly onto something exciting with SalesTribe.

So what does all of this mean for the millions of salespeople fighting for survival? Put simply, it means: adapt or perish. Party is over for salespeople who refuse to adapt, learn and change and take control of their own self-development. Graham is adamant that it is the 'generalist' sales person that is now at most risk because buyers no longer need a vendor salesperson that only has 'general' knowledge.

"Sadly, a large percentage of B2B sales people are generalists, because vendors with large product portfolios coupled with the old 'spray and pray' approach to sales and marketing. - Graham Hawkins

Graham is spot on. Information parity means that buyers can easily solve their own problems without wasting their time engaging with a sales person that is unable to provide them valuable insights. As Graham said, "the future is for 'specialists' and we all have to lift our game now or face extinction. B2B sales people in many industries have unrealistic expectations about what they are worth, and how much they should be paid. Some of these people are in for a rude shock in the new Age of the Customer."

The Future of the Sales Profession - is a great book, and I have given it a 5-Star Review on Amazon. So, if you currently working in a B2B sales role, and now beginning to see some of this change occurring, then you should buy this book. Graham's pragmatic strategies will help you understand exactly what you must now do in order to survive and thrive into the future. Follow Graham in LinkedIn here.

If you valued this article, please hit the 'like' button and also share via Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post. Please follow my LinkedIn blog for all my articles and if you're looking for a keynote speaker, visit me at Also go to for my sales methodologies that generate pipeline and manage complex opportunities.


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