‘The Death of a Salesman’ Circa 2010

Willy LomanIn 1949, Arthur Miller released his iconic play, “Death of a Salesman.” The sales landscape of 60 years ago is eerily similar to that of today. America, and the world for that fact, isn’t creating sales jobs like before. Of course you’ll see ads for them in newspapers and on job boards, but the position is not nearly as prevalent as it once was.

Why is this and what are the ramifications?

Up until about 10 years ago, every product and service had to be sold by somebody. You had to have either a “face to face” or at least “phone to phone” conversation to make a transaction—a sale. This isn’t the case anymore. With the Internet you can buy virtually anything online. You can even buy a house in another country by just going online and making an offer, let alone ordering a book or getting a picture developed and delivered to your house. And all this happens with no salesman…just bits and bytes.

By cutting out the salesman, companies can hawk their wares cheaper. In many industries, if you don’t compete online, you don’t compete. Having a rock-bottom price seems to be the basis to doing business these days. But when your business competes on price, there’s little room for anything else—and that anything else is sales and service.

Anyone can tell you that customer service in 2010 is nothing like it used to be. It’s not that companies are intentionally instructing their staff to treat their customers like trash. They just don’t have resources to hire the more and better people needed to perform better sales and customer service. Try going to a big box store like Home Depot or Wal-Mart. You have a better chance finding Bigfoot on the floor than a salesman.

This preoccupation with price has created a void of sales and customer service expertise. The middle class used to be filled with salesmen and saleswomen of all types, all striving for the American dream. Not so much anymore. Those jobs just aren’t out there…or at least not in the numbers they were.

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced. His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.
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