Thursday, August 3, 2023

Is AI going to take over sales?


Is AI going to take over sales?

Yea, sure.

I’m no luddite …I installed early AI supercomputers at leading software companies many years ago and built expert systems on personal computers. I’ve sold predictive analytics to enterprise accounts and worked with many customers on analytics projects. I trained thousands of Google and Oracle sales people on data analytics.  I understand the power of leveraging large data sets.

I’ve also worked with thousands of customers and sales people and I’ve seen how customers lean in when an expert says “in my experience…”

If the sales person isn’t adding unique value, Generative Ai will take their seat.  And repetitive selling functions undertaken by corporate sales people – “how many more servers do you need” -- will be replaced by smart (AI enabled) outbound communications (written, voice, perhaps even generated video). Live chat is already being taken over by AI bots.

You need to add value.

Or you’re toast.

A key account director once told me that his job was to take orders (big orders.) He didn’t understand that his job was to create opportunities rather than to take orders. He’s no longer with the company.

The sales person approaching the customer with a hypothesis of how to accomplish their strategic goals differently, better, faster, more profitably will continue to be successful. And in some cases, that sales person is suggesting an approach or goals that might not have been on the customer’s radar. They will co-create a new way of doing business together.

Sales person who synthesize their business value hypotheses from a variety of inputs (customer, industry, sales engineer, analyst, prior experience) will continue to find a warm reception from their customers.  GenAI will have a role – it will suggest specific customers to approach, or synthesize the business case for use with those customers. At Oracle we outsourced that task to a team of people offshore. Today, companies can outsource the task to GenAI.

But…successful selling engagements ultimately focus on the “see-feel-do” model rather than the “hear-think-act” model. And people are really good at the “feel” part, if you let them. Michael Douglas, in The Komisky Method repeatedly asks “how did that feel”, not “what did you think?” I ask that exact question after every role play and phone call (during facilitated Power Hours.)

Now…this is a different question than whether GenAI will support or enable sales. AI based sales training is already a thing, and a powerful and scalable one at that. RNMKRS has already provided realtime feedback and coaching to tens of thousands of college sales students and Fortune 500 sales people. AI recommendation engines on “next best steps” are being built and deployed.

I’ll note that sales people do not want to be overburdened with too much data. They are masters of “just give me enough to get started and I’ll do the rest on my own.”  Let’s not burden them with too much information!

Here’s my message, and it’s exactly the same I delivered in a keynote address at a very large vendor's SKO in Las Vegas. “If you’re not moving up, you’re falling behind.” Your peers are not standing still (and neither is Generative AI). Either continue to improve your skills, to add more value, or be deprecated.

Even ChatGTP and Bard don’t think AI is going to take over sales anytime soon.

ChatGTP stated:

By automating certain tasks and streamlining workflows, AI can free up salespeople to focus on more high-value activities, such as relationship-building and strategic planning.

And Bard stated:

In the future, we will see a hybrid sales force where AI and human salespeople work together to close deals. AI will handle the tasks that it is good at, while human salespeople will focus on the tasks that require human skills and creativity. This will allow sales teams to be more efficient and effective than ever before…it is important to remember that AI cannot replace human salespeople entirely. The human touch will always be an essential part of successful sales.

What do you think? Are you concerned that GenAI will replace you or your team? Or are you looking forward to better tools that will allow you to engage more powerfully with your customers and prospects?







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