The tools we have available to us in sales these days are astounding.
From social media to prospecting and CRM tools, to Chrome extensions, so many pieces of technology have found their way into my daily routine that I couldn’t live without! And indeed, according to a study done by Linkedin this year, only 2% of top-performing salespeople don’t use technology on a regular basis.
Furthermore, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in so many facets of tech these days, it looks like a whole new array of possibilities might be around the corner AND growing. Which leads me to wonder as many do: How will technology and emerging trends around AI affect the future of sales? Will salespeople be replaced, and will technology start to take over the responsibilities of commercial relationships?
I can’t predict the future, but I know what I’ve seen. I won’t say it’s impossible because the things that humans have achieved just in the last 100 years are mind-blowing. But we’re definitely not there yet, and I do believe it’s highly unlikely we ever will be (or more importantly, need to be).
So with that said, here's my take on it all, as Head of Avenue Talent Partners, after the last 20 years in sales.
The basics of buying and selling will never change
These days, I often see the vast amount of technology actually making things more confusing and overwhelming. Salespeople are often told that things have changed and that “old school techniques” don’t work anymore.
I cannot emphasize enough how completely not true and dangerous that statement is.
Sales have been happening for thousands of years in cultures around the world based on the same set of principles that govern the way human beings interact in a commercial relationship. Principles that don’t change.
Sure, tactics may change from marketplace to marketplace, but one thing always remains the same: there are at least two human beings involved in the transaction. And here’s the thing: it’s scientifically proven that humans don’t buy things using logic.
The truth is, every single person tends to look out for their own interests first. (We can’t help it, it’s a hardwired survival instinct!) So for a sale to occur, salespeople must work with that primal selfishness by showing the person on the other side of the table that they care about the things that are important to them.
Which means if technology ever wants to replace humans in any capacity in sales, it’s going to need to be able to feel the emotions that humans do.
As Anthony Iannarino says, “For AI to replicate a human’s ability to look someone in the eye and know that they're lying after 3 million years of evolution, is decades and decades away.”
He goes on to say that it’s also completely unnecessary, which I 100% agree with. Here’s why.
The Role Of Technology and AI In Sales
Let me start by saying, technology is our friend. Technology can certainly help you improve your skills as a salesperson, and certainly can sharpen your insight into what works for your buyers. If you play gold, it's just how a modern set of golf clubs can definitely help you hit the ball farther and straighter compared to the tech they used in the '50s.
But all of the tech in the world can’t replace a great golf swing. And artificial technology will not replace the skill and empathy of a talented salesperson.
The process of buying and selling is so emotionally driven, the best technology and data can do in sales is to make commercial relationships happen smoother, faster, and better. They exist to enable the relationship to occur more fluidly, not replace it.
Social media is a great example.
A few years back, there was a CRO I wanted to talk to at a certain startup and tried for months to get a conversation with to no avail. So, I dug into his social media profile and found he had purchased an airplane in the last two years and loved to fly. I decided to send him an email with some research I had done on how to maintain his plane along with a meme of me in the plane (you always have to let your personality shine through). A few months later, and after A LOT more work, we signed a deal.
There’s no question in my mind that technology and data (in the form of social media) was crucial to making that deal happen. Without it, and that extra bit of information to make a deposit in the relationship bank, getting my foot in the door would have been VERY difficult.
But, I could have still blown it even after I got my foot in the door.
Bottom line: we need to stop thinking about technology as a crutch for the skills of salespeople, and start thinking of it as something that makes the tasks they need to do easier. We need to think “salesperson + technology” and NOT “salesperson technology”.
I couldn’t live without technology in my life. It supports so many facets of the way I live personally and professionally. But at the end of the day, it’s still a tool. And tools can’t replace the creativity and resourcefulness of a true craftsman or 1:1 meaningful relationships that stand the test of time.
Tying It All Together: The Role Of Sales Leadership.
I personally believe there is no substitute for the creativity and resourcefulness of a salesperson and that relationships will always be part of sales. I just don’t think that technology (including AI) will ever be able to replicate the complexity of a human being throughout a complex sales process with informed buyers.
It certainly hasn’t yet, at least. And for that reason, I think we as sales leaders need to help new generations of salespeople understand how interpersonal relationships influence the purchasing decisions of our buyers.
Without it, we’re creating a generation of sales people that are going to be crippled.
I’m curious… how do you think technology will influence the way sales is done in the future? What ways has it helped/hurt your sales process? Leave a comment below!
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