The sales profession is undergoing a transformation, which raises a lot of discussion about whether sales is a dying art and what the next five years will bring. Moreover, one million B2B salespeople will see their jobs replaced by self-service, automated systems by 2020, according to Forrester Research.

Though the prediction is disarming, we only need to take a look at sales' sister industry, marketing, to find out what a digital revolution means for sales careers.

Technology does not signal the death of the salesperson but the rebirth of the evolved, modern salesperson.

The marketing industry has endured a similar disruption of technology a few steps ahead of the sales industry. In fact, we can predict how digital will affect the sales space in the next five years by looking at how technology has already changed the marketing profession.

That parallel also reveals some important lessons regarding how salespeople can stay relevant and indispensable.

1. Understand the data

With powerful technology comes good data. Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicted that in 2017, chief marketing officers will outspend chief information officers on information technology. Data is now integral to the marketing process, and practice of using technology to mine for and analyze data is only going to continue to grow.

But what does all that mean for the future of jobs?

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image of Mark Ruthfield

Mark Ruthfield is vice-president of sales at Yesware, a provider of prescriptive sales tools that help sales teams sell smarter.

LinkedIn: Mark Ruthfield