The 4th industrial era is here. Six months ago, a report published by McKinsey & Company predicted almost 800 million workers worldwide could be replaced by machines by 2030. And there’s solid evidence they may be right: in February 2017, a factory based in Donnguan, China, replaced 90% of human workers with robots and achieved a dramatic production increase of 250%. Clearly, some human jobs will soon become obsolete.
So what is the future of Sales? Is AI an asset or a threat? The good news is – most experts claim Sales people are sure to stay in high demand. Some opinion leaders, though, are not so optimistic and predict more than 22% of sales roles will be gone by 2020. What’s certain, is that the job requirements are bound to change. Here are some tips to help sales professionals survive in the AI era:
Cultivate emotional intelligence
Artificial intelligence is capable of capturing and processing immense amounts of data. What it’s not capable of just yet is recognizing human emotions and the immediate needs they manifest. While it can personalize communication by addressing your prospects by name, remembering their behavioral and demographic info and tracking buying preferences, it is still incompetent when it comes to choosing the optimal communication style and messaging type for each of them. Cultivating emotional intelligence will give you an upper hand in the foreseeable future. After all, that’s what sets us apart from machines.
Focus on communicating value
Communicating value is intrinsically different from communicating information. Describing product features and benefits is what most bots can easily handle, and, after all, that’s what marketing departments are for. Communicating value, on the other hand, is all about informing prospects how your product could help them solve individual problems or troubleshoot issues within their organizations.
This involves thinking outside of the box and persuading your prospects to look at the situation from a different angle. In B2B sales, for example, communicating value will require investigating and detecting bottlenecks in customer’s business processes and showing how your product or solution could be of asset. Ideally, a sales person would act as a trusted advisor helping prospective clients remove roadblocks in achieving their goals.
Master cold calling
Arguably, lack of EQ is the weakest spot of AI. What AI also lacks is the vocal apparatus: it can’t use volume, inflection and tone of voice to communicate emotions, build rapport and create trust. It’s not what you say, but also how you say it that makes a difference, even if you’re just communicating information. No matter how widespread AI gets, mid- and bottom- funnel sales will always depend on person-to-person communication.
Use AI potential
AI can be a great asset, especially, if applied on every stage of the sales process. It can perform routine tasks, automate paperwork, capture, categorize and process data as well as make predictions based on historic data from leads. In fact, when it comes to predicting which lead is likely to make a purchase, AI has proved to be far more effective than humans. This is good news, because now you can concentrate on the most creative and essential part of the sales process.
The future lies in tight integration of AI with human intelligence. By 2020, Gartner predicts, AI will become an integral part of at least one of the sales processes in B2B companies. A Forrester survey claims, companies who already use AI to empower sales, report a substantial increase in operational efficiency, sales reps and client satisfaction.
However, as intelligent as it may be, AI is far from being creative. The future job roles will increasingly demand advanced mastery of the so-called soft-skills: interpersonal communication, leadership, management and creative thinking. The overall sales job requirements will shift towards higher expertise in human-to-human interactions. In a nutshell, your new skill set will include building rapport, communicating value, becoming a trusted advisor and nurturing relationships.