Computers that are able to close deals may mean the death of the sales man.

By Michael Sasso

Hill and Markes Inc., a 112-year-old janitorial and food service supplier, is as old school as old school gets. Several of its field salespeople have visited customers for 35 years, and until December 2016 its rudimentary e-commerce site lacked even photos of many of its products. Taking orders on a mobile app wasn’t in the lexicon.

These days, though, this upstate New York company and its 50-person sales team are forging deeper into on-line retailing and looking to use more e-commerce-aided sales as field reps retire. The automation wave that has displaced so many workers in manufacturing and data entry is hitting the nation’s sales force, particularly among “business-to-business” salespeople who sell to commercial customers.

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