As Amazon’s recent launch of its cashier-less grocery store illustrates, automation isn’t a temporary fad. It’s a real trend that is having a greater impact every day across a wide range of industries. Unsurprisingly, this has led to concerns about robots causing actual human beings to lose their livelihood — some studies even speculate that up to 800 million workers worldwide could be replaced by the year 2030.
These concerns aren’t just limited to manufacturing and accounting, either. Many in the sales world have grown increasingly worried as new tech trends have altered the way they interact with leads and customers.
In this case, however, fears regarding automation need not be as overwhelming — even if the replacement of cashiers at some stores seems like a sign of things to come in the sales world.
While technology will certainly continue to change the way salespeople reach their customers, all signs indicate that robots will never be able to fully replace talented salespeople in the marketing process — here’s why:
What is technology’s role?
In reality, the adoption of AI and machine learning tools are helping salespeople increase their value in the workplace.
As Ankur Srivastava, founder and CEO of Swarmsales explains, “In sales, where innately human talents like ‘selling skills’ are considered irreplaceable, these technologies are being used to refine the game. Staying abreast of and responding to the trends is critical to both individual sales professionals and sales organizations that want to stay competitive and grow. Employing some AI and machine learning sales tools will eventually become commonplace in sales organizations that want to reduce the time it takes to close a deal.”
Quite often, this is seen in automation tools that cut through the “busy work” of sales — when the average salesperson spends “80 percent of their time qualifying leads and only 20 percent closing,” using technology to streamline the qualifying process will give each member of the sales staff more opportunities to reach clients who are most likely to convert.
Of course, the technology available to salespeople allows for much more than the automation of mundane tasks. As reported by the Harvard Business Review, new technology enables companies to review analytics in a way that reveals which tactics will increase the effectiveness of their sales teams.
In one example, data analysis performed by AI tools revealed that simply by “shifting calls to the right time of day, salespeople could triple the probability of a sale and increase profits by 20 percent.”
Machine learning and big data analysis enables sales teams to sharpen their efforts by identifying the small details that make a major difference. Improved customer targeting, changing how much time is spent on each sales call, and other necessary adjustments are all made possible through technology — but they can only be implemented by the sales team.
The indispensable human touch
Though AI is able to glean insights that most salespeople would never discover on their own, it lacks the “human” touch that makes all the difference when reaching out to leads and closing a sale.
As Amy Volas of Avenue Talent Partners notes, “It’s scientifically proven that humans don’t buy things using logic. The truth is, every single person tends to look out for their own interests first (we can’t help it, it’s a hardwired survival instinct). So, for a sale to occur, salespeople must work with that primal selfishness by showing the person on the other side of the table that they care about the things that are important to them. Which means if technology ever wants to replace humans in any capacity in sales, it’s going to need to be able to feel the emotions that humans do.”
While there may not be much emotional involvement in small, everyday purchases, selecting a new service provider for a business is a process with inherent risk. The buyer has legitimate concerns about whether the advertised service will meet their needs, as sometimes, making the wrong buying decision could cause their company to lose millions of dollars — and even cost them their job.
This is where a human salesperson makes a difference. They build an actual relationship with their sales prospect to understand the emotions that are driving the purchasing decision.
They infer meaning from word choice, tone of voice, body language and more to understand how to help a potential buyer feel comfortable with their decision. They are able to answer complex questions and provide personalized information. Though technology can improve the sales process in many ways, it cannot replicate this essential emotional aspect of buying and selling.
Technology and sales
There is no denying that automation and other new technologies will have a profound impact on the global workforce in the years to come. But technology and human salespeople should not be viewed as competing forces.
For salespeople, these changes should ultimately be viewed as a net positive. By incorporating new technologies into their work, they won’t be gradually replaced — instead, by recognizing how technology empowers both buyers and sellers, the best salesmen will gain access to new insights and improve their output.
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