Road Warriors Retire: Traveling Sales Roles Are Disappearing in the Information Age

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Is the traveling salesperson becoming obsolete? Here are the reasons why the road warrior might be hanging up their suitcase for good.

Traditionally, companies have relied on the relationships and expertise of traveling salesman to close deals and earn new clients around the country and the world.

This is a costly venture, considering the cost of air travel, hotels and rental cars.

This is also a taxing lifestyle on your traveling sales team as they are forced to spend considerable time away from friends and family.

Let’s look at some of the reasons companies are shifting from traveling sales teams, to remote sales teams.

Related Article: Business Travel Accessories Every Road Warrior Needs

Sales Positions Are Becoming Increasingly Difficult to Staff

Accord to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, millennials are running away from sales jobs. While this is a broader indictment of the sales industry, it directly impacts traveling sales agents. Traveling sales positions are the hardest to

Traveling sales positions are the hardest of all sales jobs to fill because of the time required away from home. Even for people that love travel, it’s a tough sell. Traveling for pleasure is fun, but traveling for work can quickly become a drag.

This is especially true for globe-trotting international sales people. Finding ways to stay connected can be difficult on the road. Roaming internationally is a very expensive proposition with most phone carriers. 

Combine these challenges with the perception among millennials that sales jobs are too risky and hyper-competitive, and you’ve got the perfect storm that may spell the death nail in the coffin of traveling sales teams.

The concerns around competition are even more significant when you factor in that traveling sales agents are being asked to sell increasingly expensive services and solutions. To justify the cost of travel and lodging, the margins have to be significant on the product or service that’s being sold. Traditionally, the higher the margin in a product, the more chance there is of competition rushing in to undercut the existing market.

Video Conferencing Tools Offer the Benefits of In-Person Sales

Today companies have access to tools that were pure science fiction a few short decades ago. Instantaneous transfer of information (email, text and video streams) means that detailed sales pitches can be delivered remotely. This is especially true in the age of advanced visual graphics we live in.

Even more cost-effective than a video conference, a well-polished video explaining the values of your product or service is a great way to leverage your web presence, even if your sales team are taking the evening off. Allowing clients to view information, at their leisure, on whatever device they prefer, is a great way to reach customers where they feel most comfortable.

Related Article: What Is Bleisure: Dumb Word or Great Business Travel Approach?

The Internet Has Pushed Us Into a Research-Driven Market

Companies can easily research the options available to them in the market by reviewing information from a variety of sources online. Review sites have popped up, specifically targeted towards customers looking for particular information on products available to fill their needs.

Instead of spending money on sending sales people on trips to close a sale, companies have instead decided to pump money into review sites. By sponsoring content on high-traffic websites, favorable information about their brand and products can be easily inserted into sites where clients visit to find information on solutions to their problems.

What’s crazier is the fact that many clients don’t realize they’re being sold a product. Instead, they believe they’re doing their due diligence and researching a brand or service. In actuality, they’re reading cleverly placed marketing content that looks like a review.

There is almost nothing a traveling sales person can offer that’s as effective as selling a person when they think they’re doing legitimate research. Many ethics and legal scholars have argued about the morality of using a review site to market products, but the market has already spoken on the matter. Almost any google search for a product or service results in review sites filling the results page. 

Buyer beware.

Traveling Sales People Promote Trust

For the more tech-savvy and adept consumers of high-end solutions, a traveling sales person may still be necessary. The saving grace for the road warrior is the fact that trust is an increasingly big part of large purchases. A skype conference call, or a couple online reviews isn’t going to be enough to sell a hesitant buyer on a product or solution.

A small band-aid that some brands have tried to implement to overcome the lack of trust generated by online sales is the implementation of a generous refund policy. By telling customers that if they purchase a service today, and are unhappy with it tomorrow, they can then return the product for a full refund may certainly be enticing. But to many consumers, this approach actually cheapens the brand.

Related Article: Free Apps to Put the Pleasure Back Into Business Travel

If a company is selling a high-end solution to a large potential client, do you really want to take your selling advice from a retail store that offers 30-day return periods? For some, the answer is clear. Save money and get rid of traveling sales people. For other industries, the decision to scale back productive traveling sales teams will prove to be much more difficult.

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