Human relationships are an essential part of sales. Many buying decisions are based on how reliable and trustworthy a sales person is in the eyes of the customer. Currently, these relationships largely rely on human interactions since technology is still not able to fully imitate human behavior.
However, what would happen if salespeople could one day be replaced by robots that are twice as productive and cost half as much?
The buying process is already largely automated. In fact, McKinsey estimates that, by 2020, customers will manage 85% of the relationship with a company without interacting with a human. Will sales be one of the areas where human beings will be replaced by robots?
Where is automation feasible?
We’re already witnessing a war among software solutions that promise to create the next generation of automation in marketing, sales and customer services. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Salesforce, IBM and Facebook are all putting efforts into developing predictive analytics, smart digital assistants, and natural language processing interfaces like chatbots.
The pace of development of AI makes us wonder just how long it will be before salespeople are replaced with lines of code.
Many successful sales are built on patterns of interactions that are fairly easy to replicate and automate. It’s obviously easier to automate predictable activities than unpredictable ones.
Machine learning algorithms, digital assistants and augmented reality offer some interesting possibilities when it comes to sales. Sales jobs that involve mostly low-level, repetitive tasks are begging to be automated.
Just as e-commerce platforms have eliminated many interactions of buyers with humans, AI programs built for sales teams could eliminate much time spent on repetitive tasks.
Virtual sales assistants
Ilan Kasan, the co-founder and CEO of Exceed.ai, sees companies using virtual sales assistants to find customers faster and qualify leads before passing them on to a salesperson. This is not science fiction but is already a reality. When AI is able to handle certain tasks, such as qualifying leads, it allows a salesperson to focus on more important things like personalizing outreach, which leads to higher conversion rates.
A combination of AI and EQ
What if computers could learn to identify emotions better than we do? In practice, automation depends on more than just technical feasibility. In order to replace salespeople, robots would need to have an understanding of natural language and recognize nuances in conversation.
For example, when it comes to writing a dissertation, you wouldn’t want a robot who doesn’t understand the nuances of the English language to write your dissertation. For the best dissertation help, you would want a writer with a high level of language proficiency, just as salespeople need persuasive and negotiation skills to land a sale.
Tech pioneer, Scott Sandland, and his team at Cyrano.ai have been working on combining AI and EQ. They have trained computers to look at textual clues to detect emotional states. The clues include directness, the length of a response, the variety and type of words chosen, the use of commitment words and deflection.
The AI learned to detect these textual clues by reading transcripts of conversations between car sales representatives and prospects. The system developed an algorithm predicting whether a prospect would buy or not based on an online interaction with a sales bot. As you can imagine, this opens a world of possibilities!
Personality assessment methodology
The collaboration between Sandland and Cheri Tree, author of the book Why They Buy, gives us a glimpse into what is possible. They both realize that mastering communication is the key to sales and created DA VINCI, which is capable of predicting buying behavior in nanoseconds by deciphering a prospect’s code.
Tree is the inventor of an assessment methodology called B.A.N.K. which has been backed by researchers and featured at large business conferences worldwide. It’s able to reveal the priorities of prospects and what they value most.
Many salespeople underperform because they keep repeating the same message and hope the sheer number of their attempts will bring positive results. This approach can be successful – but it’s also frustrating and very time-consuming.
Tree wanted to find a way to shorten this process and get better results by having better knowledge of the prospect. With her personality methodology, prospects can undergo a quick assessment where they can choose from four personality types that best represent them in order of accuracy.
The four personality types are Blueprint (prioritizes structure and stability), Action (mover, shaker, risk-taker), Nurturing (warm, friendly and relationship-driven) or Knowledge (logical). Every prospect is a combination of all four and has a unique B.A.N.K. code.
DA VINCI is able to determine a person’s code based on their emails. It can also recommend how to respond to align best with the prospect’s values. If you aren’t speaking your customer’s language in your reply, it will automatically give you suggestions on how to rewrite the email.
In time, it will also be able to work with video and voice input. Eventually, analysis will encompass many more metrics and be able to measure multiple aspects of personality to understand what leads to a buying decision. Sandland and Tree are convinced that computers will soon be outperforming some of the best salespeople.
Does this mean all salespeople will be robots in the future?
Not necessarily. Technological advances give us more opportunities to improve and augment sales functions. It doesn’t mean every salesperson will be replaced by a robot.
Instead of a machine taking your job, it can provide you with assistance and handle repetitive tasks. This will give you more time to focus on relationship-building, creating new services and other tasks that help to drive revenue.
Salespeople who make full use of their creativity, adaptability and communication skills are less likely to be replaced by a robot.
Continuous learning is key to job security
A Brookings Institute Report published in January 2019 explained that people should not be concerned about being replaced by robots unless their jobs consist of low-level, repetitive tasks. The authors said that jobs are just a set of tasks done by people with a certain skill set and machines can substitute for tasks and not for jobs.
One of the keys to future job security is to keep learning. Salespeople who work on cognitive tasks of a higher level and keep increasing their skills every day are unlikely to be replaced.
As technology advances, more tasks will become automated by robots. This means that some basic sales roles might disappear as an unavoidable result of the transition. However, certain important sales skills like listening, empathizing, negotiating, and convincing will be difficult to be performed by robots.
The use of AI in sales could lead to improved customer relationships and more job satisfaction amongst salespeople since they will be able to focus on the most mindful aspects of their jobs.