Will AI replace B2B sales?
In 2001, the movie AI (Artificial Intelligence) planted a seed of fear in our lives - that humans can be replaced by robots.
Almost two decades later, here we are. We consume goods assembled and distributed by machines. We order food and clothes from apps. We complain about customer service to a chatbot.
Two decades later, we continue to ask - will we, sales reps, lose our jobs to AI?
People do not want to buy from Alexa
In a 2019 report by Oracle Netsuite, Wakefield Research, and The Retail Doctor, 95% of consumers don’t want to talk to a robot when shopping. This is quite a surprise in this age of AI. Individually, we may have personal preferences to actually talk to humans (we know we do), but seeing all the press about chatbots and automated sales platforms, we thought we were the outliers. Apparently not, according to 1,200 consumers and 400 retail executives surveyed in the US, UK, and Australia.
And this is just transactional sales - meaning goods usually sold in brick and mortar stores. In our world of complex B2B sales, we need human beings more - and for a longer time - than we think.
AI will assist, not replace, humans
As far back as 1976, German-American computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, one of the fathers of modern AI, argued that AI technology should not be used to replace people in positions that require respect and care.
Further, he said that “If machines replace [these positions], we will find ourselves alienated, devalued and frustrated. Artificial intelligence, if used in this way, represents a threat to human dignity.”
Before we sales reps heave a collective sigh of relief, how exactly will they assist - and definitely not replace - B2B sales reps?
AI can do what humans can’t (or won’t) do
Robots (as loving nickname for AIs) are good at the things that we hate to do: logging calls, building lists, creating reports. How many times have we dreaded Monday morning sales meetings just because we didn’t have the time to update our CRMs with last week’s sales calls? Not to mention humans are prone to data entry-related mistakes when they are under pressure. AIs can automate these mundane but necessary activities so that humans can use the information to make informed decisions.
Taking it a step further, they are good at math. They can go through millions of data to help human sales reps calculate estimate our confidence in closing an account, all based on history. They can recommend cross-sell and upsell opportunities and predict the next target market. They will even be loved for outputting accurate revenue projections. All these so we can focus on being creative in closing the next sale.
Humans can do what robots can’t
Build relationships. Let’s face it - humans buy high-value items from other humans. If I am buying a software for my company, I understand the impact my decision will have - recurring costs, a year-long or multi-year contract, users will have to live with the software to do their jobs, and my possible promotion for doing a good job. Now doo I want to consult with a chatbot or with someone from a company who has sold me a reliable software in my previous job?
Moreover, humans understand context, which is important in negotiating. To be able to find a win-win situation, we have to know not only the requirements but also the desires and ambitions of the person sitting across the negotiating table.
Despite AI being intelligent by the hour, it simply cannot replace the human touch.
According to Hubspot, sales managers are among the jobs least likely to be replaced by robots, along with software developers, designers, and writers.
But only up to a point. According to Entrepreneur, AI may replace sales people, but only the crappy ones. Robotic order takers and uninspired cold callers may as well be replaced by robots. But great sales people - those who are capable of putting together creative solutions to bring human value to customers - will continue to defend the fort against an artificial army, all the while hitting their numbers quarter after quarter.
So what do you do?
Hire sales rock stars. And sales rockstars we have.
Atticus Solutions specializes in B2B software sales. Our founders lead the charge in optimizing the sales processes of SMEs and startups. Having experienced being part of and leading sales teams themselves, they understand the technical and soft skills that are needed for a talent to be successful in a job role. They are heavily involved in hiring and developing our human sales team to make sure they match your requirements in terms of skills, experience, and values.
Get to know us better. We’d love to hear from you. Visit the Atticus website or call +61291361600 to talk to a human sales rep.