If you’ve ever had Amazon recommend the next product you should buy then you’ve already witnessed the presence of AI in sales - maybe without even knowing. The gap between salespeople and AI is shrinking. According to McKinsey Global Institute, marketing and sales are the areas in which AI has the greatest potential benefit.
So why is this the case? In sales, working smarter beats working harder any day of the week - it might be worth checking out our previous blog on sales productivity to discover why. In short, increasing sales productivity is a question of how to get more meaningful output from sales with respect to number of hours used.
One such answer is AI.
Of course, in order to increase sales productivity using AI we need to know where to draw the line between humans and technology - to determine who does what. Will AI eliminate the role of salespeople? We’re not so sure. It’s still more effective to have robots helping people and not vice versa.
Sales will remain interpersonal
A quick brainstorm of the qualities which make an effective salesperson reveal where AI is ineffective. Empathy for example, is one invaluable trait needed to identify with prospects and push through sales. Empathetic salespeople flourish, but it’s a very human skill – it involves understanding the concerns of others to establish support.
The best salespeople excel at making judgments which require human understanding. In fact, it’s a part of the sales process where only people can excel; for all its strengths, AI is not yet adept in the ways of human judgement. Artificial Intelligence can learn on its own but for the moment, creatively interpreting new situations - particularly human situations - is best left to salespeople.
Humans are still far superior improvisers - whilst it may seem like more than the sum of its parts, ultimately AI is still just computer technology.
How do Humans and Robots Play Along Best?
There is a reason why AI is one of the hottest trends in sales though. Consider this question: If adapting to human situations is so important for a salesperson, how come they spend so much time doing tasks which don’t involve human elements? A time study conducted by Pace Productivity shows that there is a mismatch between how sales reps think they should spend their time and where time is actually being spent. The study shows that sales reps think they spend 1/3 of their weekly hours selling, but in reality they spend only 1/5 – the discrepancy being caused by time spent on administrative tasks and planning.
This is where the robots come in. Salespeople would be more efficient if they could spend less time planning, less time on administrative tasks and more time selling. This is what Artificial Intelligence enables - tasks like meeting prep work, calendar invitations, CRM updates and more can simply be outsourced to a machine.
Of course, it’s important to note that the data for an ideal profile doesn’t even account for the fact that (as technology improves) some of these tasks could be outsourced almost entirely to AI. We could see administrative tasks disappear from the role of salespeople almost completely, which is likely only a positive development for any salesperson.
The main point is that intelligent sales tools only work when they either a) supplement or b) streamline your current, already functioning sales process. Robots aren’t competing to overtake humans in the sales game - they are working alongside them.
Your New Best Virtual Friend?
Humans are still an essential part of any successful sales process and it’s unlikely that advances in AI will change that any time soon. Computers can’t handle your meetings or improvise solutions to your problems.
But investing into AI can and will increase sales productivity - of course it will. Salespeople excel at selling but when it comes to the boring tasks, AI is meticulous. During repetitive processes their attention to detail never varies.
The benefits of salespeople and AI working together are two-fold: primarily, robots can free up more time for salespeople to address the important human aspects of selling. Simultaneously they provide information which will help them do so more effectively.