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AI led processes have been replacing vast numbers of traditional lower-skilled blue-collar jobs for years. Mechanizing and automating repetitive blue-collar tasks saves time, money and resources.
This is happening in white-collar jobs too - including many traditional sales roles. By 2020, many sales-related tasks which don’t require intuition will be managed by AI. The McKinsey Global Institute, estimates that around 50% of today’s work activities - including large numbers of white-collar roles - could be automated by 2055!
The changes in the ways we work has caused consternation among sales professionals worried they’ll be replaced by automatons.
With such dramatic threats to traditional lower-skilled sales roles, is it all doom and gloom or are there opportunities for those companies and salespeople willing to adapt and embrace a new sales stack?
Let’s consider some fears and opportunities connected with the growing role of AI in sales.
The Cons: AI Will Take Over Low-Skilled Sales Tasks
There is a fear among today’s salespeople that big data marketing and augmented reality will largely replace the need for real sales professionals. This fear is not without some justification; many traditional sales-related tasks will soon be automated.
Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO explains “We're in an AI spring. I think for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business because we're going to have computers aiding us in how we're interacting with our customers.”
Instead of traditional approaches which involve manually researching prospects, for example, AI can now determine who salespeople should call, when to call them and statistically-likely buyer behaviors.
In a recent CPSA podcast interview focused on AI and predictive sales forecasting, Michael Lock, CEO at Aviso Inc. explained: “One of the most important things that big data (and) machine learning can do is … help you figure out what the quality is like in your pipeline; what is most likely to close, and if you have enough of those deals in the pipeline (to) actually to make quota.”
The use of chatbots too, is quickly becoming the norm across multiple sectors. Chatbots will be able to pull from on the best answers from 1000s of sales conversations as they answer 100s of inquiries simultaneously.
The Pros: A Future of Creative, Disruptive, People-Oriented Sales
In an age of machine learning, you really shouldn’t be afraid of AI replacing your job.
Instead, look at the free time it gives you to get better at the creative, innovative, disruptive, people-oriented aspects of selling. These are the sales activities and skills which artificial intelligence will not replace anytime soon.
“AI”, suggests Jamie Shanks, CEO at leading Social Selling management consulting and training company, Sales for Life, “is a means of contextualizing the sales conversation. AI empowers me to be able to have better, stronger, and more informed conversations.”
Intelligent algorithmic tools - which have data based upon millions of interactions - can save hours of sorting and filtering a lead database each week – freeing up more time to prospect and sell.
Use of predictive analytics and smarter CRM features enables salespeople to receive auto-filtered, qualified leads faster and with much more chance of conversion.
While too many sales departments continue to bumble along without making the most of the tech available to them, those who are integrating AI and machine learning into sales processes are, and will continue to, outperform the competition.
There’s no denying that the job description of tomorrow’s salespeople will read very differently to today. AI will remove the need for humans to perform swathes of repetitive tasks.
Rather than fearing the future, however, frontline sales pros should embrace the freedom new technologies will provide them with ways to be more informed, relevant and responsive.
The future is bright for the brightest, tech-savvy, salespeople! So stop worrying and, instead, embrace changes brought by machine-assisted selling
And remember, there are many sales activities which AI just can’t replace anytime soon. Our ability to gain rapport, to tell a joke, to be authentic, and vitally, to negotiate, will remain the domain of humans.
Enjoyed the article? Check out the upcoming 2018 e-book from the CPSA and Shane Gibson called The Emergence of Artificial Intelligence in Sales for more quotes and insights. Check out other ebooks and whitepapers here.
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