The automation of work and its effect on jobs is an increasingly hot (and anxiety-laden) topic in the public conversation. Those watching CNN’s town hall series with 2020 presidential hopefuls have seen the repeated appearance of this question:
“How will you prepare people for imminent displacement and job disruption resulting from advances in artificial intelligence and automation technology?”
In some industries, there’s no denying that technology is going to be able to perform essential tasks faster, more reliably, and cheaper -- to the point of replacing the human worker. Sales is not one of those industries; if you work in sales, the golden era is coming.
That’s not to say that artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t making its way into the sales technology stack -- it certainly is. The difference is that in sales organizations, smart technology is a complement, not a substitute, for the sales rep. Technology solves for the tasks that humans aren’t good at or can’t do, like synthesizing vast amounts of customer data instantaneously. Machine learning can provide the needed insights and direction to empower the sales rep, while freeing up his or her time for more creative or relationship-based work. In this sense, smart technology is the ultimate productivity hack: a virtual army of assistants working 24/7 in the background while the sales rep leverages his or her emotional intelligence and communication skills to close deals. According to Salesforce’s 2018 State of Sales Report, over 80 percent of sales teams who use AI say these tools help them do their jobs better and 76 percent of these companies have been growing their sales teams. Rather than costing people their jobs, sales technology may actually be doing the opposite: creating more jobs through better business results.
The human element is a critical component of the sales process and is something that can never be programmed (unless we’re suddenly in a sci-fi novel). For sales people, the parts of the job that require emotional intelligence and flex the creative muscles are the most engaging and rewarding. Solving business challenges for a customer is intrinsically far more fulfilling than inputting data into a CRM system. While greater efficiency and profitability are often highlighted as the benefits of technology, this last potential value prop is surprisingly human: greater job satisfaction.
While others are hand-wringing over how automation and AI will disrupt their industries, smart sales leaders are seeing the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. The modern sales team will be faster, smarter, and ultimately, happier. For the innovators who are ready to supercharge their sales team’s performance, the future is now.