What will AI mean to the sales industry?

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Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training
Columnist
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Do you think a robot could take your sales job?

One of the biggest threats to salespeople’s jobs over the next 20 years is the advancement of technology and the inability of a salesperson to embrace it and fear it instead.

If we look at the evolution of technology over the last 20 years – mobile phones have gone from bricks to devices that we can record television on and control our heating at home; hefty Walkman’s are now tiny iPods that clip to our trousers and VHS’ with grainy pictures have evolved to 3D images you can watch from your own sofa!

Looking forward to the next 20 years, robotics and artificial intelligence is going to be the next game changer.

Autonomous cars will take us from A to B, personal assistants on our devices will become even more advanced and robots will be satisfying our sexual needs, yep you read that correctly, sex robots!

The government this week has pledged £17.3 million to university research on artificial intelligence after a report from Accenture claims AI could add £654 billion to the UK economy.

So if AI will be the mainstream sooner than we think, what does this mean for the sales industry?

AI will replace hunches and instincts

Many skilled salespeople use their instincts when thinking which of their current clients will be interested in certain products.

There is an art when it comes to deliberating which product or service would be best for Mr Prospect.

The reliance on this art will soon be obsolete as the relationship between AI and Big Data blossoms over the coming years.

AI will take the trends and behaviours of your prospect from where they’ve visited on websites down to social media activity and tell you exactly when to call or email and exactly what to offer based on these traits.

RIP the order taker

This progression in technology doesn’t look great for the good ol’ order taker.

Gartner Research taken back in 2015 predicted that “33% of sales roles that could be described as order takers will disappear completely by 2020”.

It also went as far to say that “85% of all B2B sales transactions will take place without human intervention by 2020”.

Gartner predicts that 33% of sales roles that could be described as order takers will disappear completely by 2020.

Order takers simply take information, make sure it is accurate and then process it – AI will not only do all of this for you, but it will send a personalised email and offer upsells based on the information it has already gathered about you.

Where you have visited on the website, what you have clicked on, what video you have watched and whether you watched it all – this information will be gathered and then a suitable email will be sent confirming your transaction with suitable upsell solutions thrown in for good measure.

Sales managers need to evolve

Long gone are the days of sales managers needing to deliver rah-rah sales meetings on a weekly basis.

They need to do much more, they need to be data driven and be truly proficient in analytics to drive their teams forward and give them much more of a chance of success.

CRM systems will give you the data you need in terms of closing ratios and successful telephone calls – however these technologies in the coming years will only become more and more sophisticated.

Bruce Swann who develops Adobe’s CRM systems has been quoted as saying: “CRM systems will continue to evolve and incorporate capabilities that used to be considered advanced technologies, such as data science (predictive analytics, marketing attribution, journey analytics), integrated email, mobile and social channels, cloud deployments of sales and marketing solutions together, a single accessible view of the customer”.

I’ve carried out various sales consultancies recently, and the inability of sales managers to embrace technology as it goes forward is baffling, now is the time to embrace them as the acceleration of these will only gather pace quicker over the coming years.

Goodbye to boring bits

Despite the continuous enhancement in technology, the sales person will not be completely obsolete.

People will still want to build relationships with other people, and this will be no different in 10 or 20 years’ time.

AI will help the amount of day to day admin a salesperson will do and, as a result of these tedious, boring tasks being reduced, they will actually have more time to sell and build relationships.

It’s essential to remember that human to human relationships will never stop being important in sales and that Big Data should be regarded as a friend and not an enemy!

And less time will be spent with dealing with complaints – chatbots are becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of their conversational techniques and their increasing levels of empathy.

So whilst the cynics will have their doubts about artificial intelligence in sales, if you view it as something that will enhance your sales performance, it will put you in a lot better stead going forward.

It’s essential to remember that human to human relationships will never stop being important in sales and that Big Data should be regarded as a friend and not an enemy!

With basic automations currently in the marketplace to assist you in smashing your targets – I’d definitely recommend mastering these now that you know what is around the corner.

Are you currently using any of these systems now, or have you recently put them in place and seen the rewards?

Or is this something that you fear a bit, and are reluctant to put in place?

Let me know what you think.

 

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