Look around. Your computer, your car, your jewelry, your eyeglasses, and your cell phone—many of the things you own—were probably sold to you by someone. Now, think about things you can’t see, like your cell phone service, your Internet service, and your car insurance. Chances are, those services were probably sold to you by someone as well. Now that you think about it, you can see that selling is involved in life in so many ways, but did you ever think about the impact that selling has on the economy?
In the United States alone, almost 16 million people were employed in sales jobs in 2018 (US Bureau of labour statistics, 2019). This number includes retail salespeople and cashiers, insurance sales agents, real estate brokers and sales agents, and manufacturing sales reps just to name a few. That translates to one in every ten people in the United States having a job in sales (US Bureau of labour statistics, 2019). In Canada, 2.2 million people worked in retails sales alone in 2019 (up from just over 2 million the year before) (Bedford, 2020) and there were more than 250,000 businesses employing people in sales (retail, real estate, finance, professional services, and so on) (Duffin, 2019).
The Internet: Power to the People
The Internet has been a game changer for selling in many ways. Just as the Internet expands the reach of a company to virtually anywhere in the world, it also provides customers with access to information, products, and services that they never had before. In some industries, the Internet has virtually eliminated the need for a salesperson. Travel agents are no longer the exclusive providers of reservations and travel plans. Music stores are almost extinct. Newspaper want ads have almost vanished. In other industries, the relationship of the salesperson and customer has changed dramatically. The power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. Take, for example, the auto industry. It used to be that when you wanted to buy a car, you went to a car dealership. The salesperson would show you the cars, take you out on a test drive, and then negotiate the selling price when you were ready to buy, withholding the dealer invoice. Today, customers may e-mail a car dealership to set up an appointment to drive a specific car after they have researched different models of cars including features, benefits, competitive models, editor and customer reviews, competitive pricing, and dealer invoice pricing. In some cases, the customer may know more than the salesperson (McGarvey & Harrison, 2010). In a later chapter, we will look at the impact of technology including social media and sales 2.0.