Are You About to be “Commoditized” Or Will You Survive?



For the sake of this post, it is important that we all understand the term “commoditization” This from good old Wikki …

“In business literature, commoditization is defined as the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers. It is the movement of a market from differentiated to undifferentiated price competition and from monopolistic to perfect competition. This is not to be confused with commodification, which is a Marxist term for things being assigned economic value which they (according to Marxist theory) did not previously possess, by their being produced and presented sale, as opposed to personal use.”

I believe that most of us recognize the onward, relentless march of commoditization - although some people in sales appear deliberately oblivious, and are hanging on in the vain hope that it is something that only happens to other people; other industries; other sectors.

The topic came up over dinner last week, when a close friend related this horrific story: He arrived in England three days before Christmas last year, and anxious to quickly check into his hotel before heading off to dinner, parked outside the front entrance, grabbed his “man-bag” and went in. Fifteen minutes later he re-appeared outside to find his car had been stolen. In fact, not only his car, but his suitcases; presents for his children; his laptop … everything, and all he had left was what he was standing up in plus the contents of his “man-bag” and those contents turned out to be his saviour.

If you have no idea what a “man-bag” is, I should explain: Popular in France for years, they are now making a big come-back in Europe, and no self-respecting executive goes anywhere without one. I actually have three – all from Barbour – and I keep my iPad in there, plus mobile telephone, assorted essentials like tissues … you get the picture. My suits have never been so bulge-free! But I digress.

Armed with what remained of his possessions, and some incredible support and assistance from the hotel staff, my friend – after two large brandy’s – set about resurrecting his Christmas: He began by arranging for a hire car to be delivered – using his iPad of course. Then he honored his dinner date, and calmed down.

The next morning, he again went online and ordered replacement clothes from Boden (what a great choice – he has so much style, my friend) Then he ordered replacement Christmas presents, to be delivered to the rented cottage where he was spending the holiday with his children. Next he was concerned about being able to buy all the food and wine he needed, so he placed his order with Waitrose (other supermarkets provide similar services) to be delivered on Christmas Eve …In fact, in less than one hour, he completely salvaged his, and his families’ Christmas, online, from the comfort of his hotel room, and not a salesperson involved – Christmas for him had been totally commoditized.

If you think back even five years ago, could that have happened?

Slowly but surely, more and more products, solutions and services are being commoditized: My definition of a commodity? If it can be purchased online with a credit card, it is a commodity, and one of the few restrictors is a credit limit.

So how long will it be before you are replaced by a credit card acceptance screen?

There is a huge post-commoditization grave-yard somewhere full of petrol pump attendants, insurance agents, mobile phone salesmen and women, newspaper sellers, and a whole host of other ex-salespeople made redundant by the internet – and it is filling up fast. Careers are dying to get in there!

Change is inevitable – it is the one constant we can rely on: It cannot be refused or resisted, so we have to accept it and adapt and thrive. The sales space isn’t dying, it is just re-shaping itself, and what comes next is bound to be more exciting than what has been before – we just have to fully embrace it and keep the shutters of our minds in the up position.

In fact, “commoditization” – or “automation” is a topic we are going to be discussing at next week’s Sales 2.0 Conference in London – if you haven’t booked your ticket, there is still time to do so – and I am very much looking forward to it. You might also enjoy this short video - “The Future of Sales”


News: Two excellent Top Sales Academy modules coming up this week: On Tuesday, Ken Thoreson of Acumen Management presents “Creating Sales Compensation Plans for High Performance” You can listen to Ken and I discussing this critical topic in a recent interview here.

Then on Thursday, it is Dave Kurlan of Objective Management Group’s turn – “Getting it Right at the Front End” – and again, do listen to this short interview I did with Dave last week.

Then you can book your FREE seat and prepare to expand your skills set - HERE



  1. says

    Like many things i think Neil Rackham was rather prescient here when he talked a number of years ago about how if all salespeople did was provide information to prospects then their days were numbered – and how he saw a future with perhaps half the number of professional salespeople as today, but with each adding much more value themselves rather than just explaining the value of the product.


  2. says

    Yes, Neil has discussed the future of sales a lot over the years and much of what he predicted is now coming to pass. Strange that so few are discussing it within the sales space? Fewer salespeople will mean less sales training needed – that probably explains the somewhat “ostrich-like” stance I guess.

    The two most important commercial functions within an organisation in around five years will be marketing and customer support – you heard it here first :-)

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