Why do you have a salesforce? Funny question, until you think about it a bit more. With all the focus on the changed buyer who finds online or from peers much of what she needs to make a decision, on just about everything, including what to buy, why do we still have sales people on the payroll?
Because your customers require them.
Funny answer, until you think about it a bit more.
Work with me here. If your company is in the business of converting assets, like a patent, or skilled crafts people, or molten metal, or a process you understand well, into something of potential value to others, that is step one.
Next, you have to communicate that value to other people so they can decide to get some, or not. To do that, you have people crafting all sorts of messages about your value, some of those messages you send out to the world online, some in traditional ads, others on blogs, some into communities, maybe a book, and those messages are the simpler ones.
Simpler because these are messages the target recipient must be able to decode, absorb, and assimilate unaided into his or her personal value equation. Does the value I perceive exceed the cost and is the risk to realizing that value manageable and acceptable? "I like what I hear and read about this iPhone well enough, the cost seems worth it, and I think I can figure out how to make it work." Like that.
Then there are more complex messages, to go with more involved decisions, the value of which you created in order to solve more involved problems than retrieving and sending texts or booking a table for dinner.
That is where sales people come in. Customers require them to decode, absorb, and assimilate complex messages aided by you. Those messages are designed to communicate value that is not so straightforward and possibly enormous -- while also costly and more complex to realize. And those messages are best communicated in a conversation that unfolds in two directions. Question, answer, deeper question, rebuttal, example, question and so on.
Let's illustrate with some examples. Back to the phone. A buyer is "sold" on getting an iPhone before hitting the operator's store. But that's just the phone. Now comes the plan, and the credits you have accumulated, and the new service options for you, the family, and do you want insurance, or a waterproof case? Or do you want an android? (Just asking...)