Why the future of sales is about people… with technology

There is an ongoing debate about whether humanity or technology is more crucial to the future flourishing of businesses. And with that, the question of whether sales jobs will become obsolete.

 

 

From the one corner we hear The Future of Sales Is Artificial Intelligence along with an explanation for Why Many Sales Jobs Will Become Obsolete.

 

But across the room arguments ring equally loudly explaining Why AI Won’t Replace Your Salespeople Anytime Soon and Why The Future Of Sales Is PEOPLE Not Technology.

 

 

When we listen more carefully to what is being said, however, it is reasonable to conclude:

 The Future of Sales is About People Using Technology Wisely.

 

  • Technology, such as AI, assists salespeople in better knowing and serving their customers

 

  • Some sales jobs will become obsolete, but new technology will also create new sales jobs

 

  • Sales jobs of the future will require salespeople to be consultants rather than order takers

 

  • Human relationships remain central to the sales process. Technology can be used to give people more information and time they can use in building, maintaining and strengthening those relationships

 

 

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How do we make sense of these seemingly contradictory claims about the future of sales and what can we learn from them?

 


 1. The future of sales is Artificial Intelligence (as a helpful tool)

 

Mention of Artificial Intelligence or AI and the possible loss of jobs immediately brings to mind images of Will Smith fighting an army of robots to save the future of humanity. Futurist  Peter Schwartz is therefore quick to suggest Augmented Intelligence as a more accurate term.

 

The future of sales is about the cooperation between humans and technology, such as AI. People are still pulling the strings behind the screens, telling computers, “if this, then that”, to obtain the needed information faster and more accurately than they could have on their own steam.

 

The aim remains the same as always: knowing your customer so that you can tailor your offers to their needs and increase your sales. AI helps you get a deeper understanding of your customers and respond to their needs.

 

Sales technology is increasing our ability to capture useful information about our customers. “Selling to people is becoming a function of what’s happening to them, their company, and their industry at the time, as opposed to using a generic sales pitch,” argues Schwartz.

 

You don’t need to worry about being replaced by an intelligent machine, but rather by another salesperson or company empowered by intelligent sales technology.

 

 

2. Many (but not all) sales jobs will become obsolete

 

Geoffrey James, Inc.com Contributing Editor, highlights the growth of Amazon and eBay as indicative that businesses and consumers alike are becoming more willing to purchase goods online, with no need for a salesperson to facilitate the process. He goes on to quote Selling Power magazine’s Gerhard Gscwandtner who ascribes this increase in online purchases to the integration of AI into such websites.

 

Again, AI does not mean the end of salespeople, but rather presents new opportunities for salespeople and especially smaller entrepreneurial initiatives.

 

We will see the emergence of a specific type of sales person. "The salesperson of the future will be highly knowledgeable and highly educated because only then can they provide a level of service that can't be automated.” And this salesperson will use technology.

 

Situations involving problem diagnosis, solution definition and ROI calculation will continue to require human interpretations and human decision-making, according to Gschwandtner.

 

Technology is moving the sales industry in two directions simultaneously. On the one hand, certain software continues to make purchasing things online easier while eliminating the need for salespeople in more product and service categories. On the other hand, the software that helps salespeople sell customised solutions is becoming more user-friendly and more powerful, which is why small companies must embrace these new developments.


 

3. Artificial Intelligence won't replace (all types of) salespeople anytime soon

 

David Jacoby, writing for the Sales Readiness Blog, is quick to remind that talk about a new technological tool threatening jobs is nothing new. He admits that we find ourselves in a time of rapid technological advancement, but adds that the machines will not be taking over quite yet.

 

While jobs that require simpler skills, such as order taking, are most likely to be replaced by technology, a 10% increase in consultant-type roles is expected by 2020.

 

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Future salespeople will act as consultants rather than order takers, and these roles will be grounded in uniquely human skills, such as:

 

• high emotional intelligence,

• the ability to build rapport,

• the ability to inspire trust, and

• the ability to creatively solve complex issues

 

Jacoby ascribes the idea that salespeople are doomed, to narrow thinking about how automation works. “Success will be amplified for salespeople who have the best skills and understand how to use technology to enhance those skills.”

 

Sales managers should think about how they can leverage technology to enable their sales team to serve customers better, faster. “Ask yourself how you can ensure your sales team is trained in areas that make them more like genuine consultants than mere order takers.”


 

4. The future of sales is (primarily) people, not technology 

 

“Why do people opt for AI-driven sales technologies?”, asks Carole Mahoney, Founder and Chief Sales Coach at Unbound Growth. “Because it is hard to interact with humans and build relationships. Humans are unpredictable.”

 

It is tempting to ‘outsource’ the responsibility of relationships to a sales tool. But regardless of the type of technology we are selling with, it is people we are selling to.

 

Salespeople are able to ‘see’ and empathise with the buyer in a manner no tech tool can. Buyers trust people in a way they’ll never trust tech tools. Salespeople remain fundamental to the selling process. Salespeople ultimately stand between customers and solutions.

 

“Methodologies and processes emerge over time, but constant in all this is a salesperson who grasps what is going on around them, who their buyer is.”

 

Mahoney’s conclusion is that salespeople are what we ought to invest in. Coaching and developing people, helping them to develop healthy habits and sound characters must remain the main priority.

 

 

It is therefore reasonable to conclude:

The Future of Sales is About People Using Technology Wisely.

 

  • Technology, such as AI, assists salespeople in better knowing and serving their customers

 

  • Some sales jobs will become obsolete, but new technology will also create new sales jobs

 

  • Sales jobs of the future will require salespeople to be consultants rather than order takers

 

  • Human relationships remain central to the sales process, technology is used to build and equip salespeople 

 

 

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