What will happen to sales professionals once robots can “Sell me this pen” a la Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street?
The rise of artificial intelligence and human-like chatbots are once again threatening poor-old sales professionals who have had to worry about their job security for over a century. That’s right, exactly 100 years ago, in 1916, the New York Times predicted the death of door-to-door salesmen in an article titled, “Are salesmen needless?”
Fears over technology stealing sales jobs then took place following the advent of both the phone and Internet. Then, Forrester Research predicted that one million B2B salespeople will become obsolete by 2020, lost to eCommerce.
While the predictions were dire and the fears were rational, the indisputable fact is that the sales industry has always persevered and will always play an enormous role in a free market economy. However, the sales industry is changing and it is critical for business leaders to marry humans with robots.
As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, we are seeing world-class companies use artificial intelligence and it is a game-changer. Not in 5 or 10 years, but mean right now.
There are limits to human judgement but an over-reliance on intelligent machines can also produce blind spots. In 2017, a half-man, half-machine approach will lead you to the promise land.
Here are 4 ways AI can help you achieve record sales revenue today:
1. ‘Hire’ AI Powered Sales Assistants
There is no medal for wasting hours on cold calls or bad leads and it certainly does not bolster your commission or company profits. AI sales assistants, such as ‘LISA’ (Learning Intelligent Sales Agent) and Conversica can alleviate this unproductive and wasted time. Robots can automatically contact, engage and follow up with leads using natural conversation. The machine extracts key information such as best times to call and then hands it off to a human to close the deal. It is critical to mesh machines with humans since there are still messages that confuse the AI. A half-man and half-machine approach is needed in 2017.
2. Make Robots do the “TPS Reports“
As with all comedy, the movie Office Space was so funny because it was so true. Writing reports at work is brutal and every minute spent on administrative work is a minute not closing sales. The Associated Press expanded its quarterly earnings reporting from approximately 300 stories to 4,400 with the help of AI-powered software robots. The use of this technology allowed reporters to focus on more investigative and thorough reporting. By giving the intelligent machines the grunt work of scheduling and paperwork, you will free your reps up to do what they do best, make money for the company.
3. Use AI to Recruit a ‘Next Gen’ Sales Team
An Accenture study found that 94 percent of talent executives report that they’ve successfully used big data to “moderately or extensively” identify new candidate sources. However, while predictive analytics, algorithms and keyword searches can help recruiters avoid going through hundreds of unqualified resumes by hand, they can create blind spots that hinder a recruiter’s ability to identify great candidates. For example, a robot can’t determine how two people will get along personality wise. It is undeniable how much technology is streamlining the recruiting process but at the same time there is a chasm that current technology is unable to fill. Using AI to complement humans will lead to maximum sales.
4. Do Not Simply Hoard Your Big Data
According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day but 90 percent of all data is never analyzed or utilized in business decisions. As much as 60 percent of this data begins to lose value within milliseconds of being generated. The point is that this is not simply an arms race for what company can gather the most data, rather what company can best use that data to make more intelligent hiring decisions. It is therefore critical to invest in data analysts and you can start by watching big players in the market such as Amazon, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook.
The bottom line is that technology will enhance and improve the sales process, but it will not replace the need for salespeople. Salespeople that work in tandem with robots will win more business and service clients better.