Will Artificial Intelligence Cause Sales Roles to Disappear?

November 17, 2017 Matthew Cook

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. What was once a vision of a distant future is now the self-driving taxi taking you home. For years, the business world has debated how AI would impact the future. The advancement of technology has always been a scary topic for business leaders and those whose jobs may become automated. So far, the inability to embrace change has halted business leaders, while those who prepare for a more AI-assisted future are seeing the benefits.

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How AI will disrupt sales is a heavily discussed topic. Now that AI is firmly entrenched in our everyday lives, we can more accurately determine artificial intelligence’s impact. No one can predict the future, but it is likely that the majority of order-taking, telemarketing, cold-calling sales reps will disappear. The question is what will be left?

Jobs Already Long Gone

By 2020, it is estimated that a million B2B salespeople will be replaced by websites or automatic ordering systems. We have already seen this with the loss of basic sales jobs in retail and fast food; they’ve been replaced by order-taking machines. AI and self-service machines have evolved the role of lower-level sales: These reps are now facilitators of the sales process rather than leaders. The addition of sales bots also displaces sales reps whose main task is information gathering.  

AI also takes most of the guesswork or gut feeling out of sales. Any common behaviours, trends, likes and dislikes are just data waiting to be found by bots. There is no more need for hours of research and tracking down the decision maker. Due to social media and big data, AI will be able to perform these jobs more efficiently than any human.

Say Goodbye to (Bad) Sales Reps

Data-inputting sales reps and seasoned cold callers will most likely be out of work in the near future. If you have sales reps whose main job is to take orders or process customer information, get ready to automate. AI will not only perform these tasks but they can send immediate personalized emails with offers based on search history—a benefit that can’t be ignored.

AI will take over the mundane tasks many salespeople despise, but by doing this, it will expose your sales reps who are simply taking up space. Your talented sales superstars will have more time to sell and will most likely sell more. Your leads will now come to your reps almost fully qualified. The research phase that takes up most of a sales rep’s time will be eliminated. This puts the focus on how your reps close the deal. A rep who can take the AI-gathered information and run with it will be successful; those who can’t close, well, they should have been gone long ago.

Why Sales Must Evolve

It’s easy to wonder and stress over change. There are very few people in the world who are consistently ready and prepared for disruptions. It is important to remember that there are always factors that stay the same. This is what you must build your sales and marketing strategies around.

Truly caring about helping your customers solve their problems will always be valued. If AI is going to take away the majority of menial and manual tasks, salespeople need to focus on personalization—something robots can’t replace. There will always be an emotional component to selling, especially for long-term contracts or expensive purchases.

The job of a salesperson will change due to AI. Repetitive tasks will be reduced, decisions about correspondence or scheduling will be automatic, and simple prospect questions will already be answered. It will be the salesperson’s job to make a connection and provide value. Customers making large purchasing decisions or committing long term will always need hand holding and trust in a partnership.

Developers will consistently make strides for more human-like AI, and it will no doubt change customer service and transactional selling as it stands today. But certain job functions that require human connection and expertise won’t be as easy to replace.

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