death of the salesman?

the famous playwright Arthur Miller wrote a
play called the ‘Death Of The Salesman’, that became famous in the fifties and
the sixties. Perhaps, it was too early for pronouncing such a verdict to the ubiquitous
salesmen, but it is now fast becoming a reality, with web sales increasing daily for many
companies in the US. The role of the salesman is slowly undergoing a change in the new Web
paradigm of doing business.

It all started when a ‘young’ man
and an ‘old’ man started goading Net users to buy commodities through the
Internet. And they made successful businesses of it. William Dell, the youngster with the
bright idea of taking on the might of Compaq and IBM, persuaded buyers to buy his PCs
online. Jim Barksdale, the more wizened and experienced started selling his browser
online, thus also creating a web site with maximum hits and hence earning a huge revenue
from advertisements.

Now you have many companies following the
route created by Dell Computers and Netscape Communications in the US. So much so that a
greater part of the recent profit made by Apple Computer came from web sales. The latest
in the US is buying cars on the Net, with research indicating that 10 percent of the car
buyers in the US saying that they would buy cars online in 1998, compared to 4 percent
last year. In India, this is slowly taking off with some companies taking the initiative
of marketing goods on the Net. Moreover, with the Reserve Bank of India allowing ecommerce
on the Net in the near future, this kind of business holds promise for the country.

The natural question that follows is: what
happens to the salesman? The salesman undergoes a metamorphosis in this era of new medium
of communication. Till now, what he practiced was ‘push’ strategy to sell his
wares. The WWW gives him a tool for ‘pull’-a strategy wherein the customer comes
to him rather than his going to customer.ÿBut here is the catch. First of all, the
salesman can no longer claim to know his customer. With personal interaction gone, the
salesman cannot even see the customer, let alone ‘con’ him or her. Second, the
salesman is faced by finicky customer who is much more knowledgeable than before. With the
Web being a repository of information, the customer is armed with all the data about the
particular product and is probably bargaining with at least four or five dealers. Third,
this information gives the customers a better bargaining power on the Web than otherwise.

For vendors, it is a boon, as they get to
cut distribution costs which amount to 30 percent of the total costs. On the other hand,
the customer is better of with brighter chances of a good bargain. But the guys who take
the hit are the dealer and the salesman. Not only is their geography threatened by other
dealers’ encroachment, but their margins too are getting depleted because of
competition between dealers.

So the question that faces the salesman is:
how is he going to evolve and succeed in the Net generation? Even as he is slowly and
steadily being replaced by the web agent, maybe the salesman finds that there is life
after the Net too. Maybe the Web could end up becoming his biggest ally rather than the
agency which threatens his very existence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *