These days, it seems like artificial intelligence (AI) is all over the news, from ChatGPT to the Hollywood strike. The technology is capable of fundamentally changing the way we work, and understandably, there’s fear and apprehension about its growing popularity across a variety of sectors, sales included. One of the primary concerns about the future of AI in sales and other fields is that it will eliminate jobs and replace humans in the workforce.
If you think that sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, you’re right. But what does the rise of AI really mean for sales representatives, and what do they need to know about its role in their industry? Read on to find out if there’s cause for concern and where you might find some benefits of using AI in sales.
Why AI is No Substitute for Salespeople
When consider the future of AI and sales, most experts agree that artificial intelligence will not replace sales reps for one simple reason. Robots are not people. Sales is, ultimately, a human-centered field that relies on skills that are unique to humans.
Here are just a few critical sales functions that AI can’t perform:
Build relationships: It’s common knowledge that relationships are the foundation of sales. You can’t close a deal without building a rapport and trust with your client, and a computer program is just not capable of doing this effectively. Sales reps understand different communication styles and client needs, and they can respond accordingly. This is critical in earning trust — and the approvals necessary — to turn prospects into long-term clients.
Understand emotions and psychology: Being successful in sales requires a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence. Salespeople have to be able to understand the nuanced cues that indicate a prospect’s interests and concerns, whether they’re meeting in person, on a virtual conference call or simply talking on the phone. Without the ability to read things like body language or voice inflection, AI programs are unable to respond accordingly and provide the types of customized solutions many clients require.
Negotiate: Salespeople understand that closing a deal sometimes requires a certain amount of compromise. A free trial, additional training or a slight discount may be the key to getting a new customer. This means you have to be able to see the big picture, including things like budget, business challenges and even objections. While AI may be able to see individual pieces, it isn’t able to aggregate them to create viable options that work within customer limitations.
Think strategically: Salespeople are able to advocate for their clients by anticipating their needs and their pain points, actively listening and asking the right questions. They use their judgment, intuition and industry experience to provide workable options that address challenges. Because AI relies on data, patterns and trends, it can’t offer the type of personalized analysis and nuanced options that humans can.
Adapt: You know the saying — the only constant is change. That’s certainly true in sales. The best sales reps are able to think ahead and change course at the drop of a hat. Being able to evolve your strategy without losing time in the process or frustrating your prospect is an invaluable skill. Humans are able to use past experience to inform their decisions, but AI fundamentally lacks this ability. In order to adapt to a new challenge or situation, AI has to be fully reprogrammed, which adds time and cost.
What are Some Benefits of Using AI in Sales?
All of this is not to say that AI has no place in sales. In fact, it has a very important and defined role — alleviating administrative burden. Many salespeople can get bogged down in simple but critical tasks that take time away from one-on-one client interactions. Fortunately, this is where AI excels.
Below are some tasks that AI can help automate:
Gathering and qualifying leads: Chat bots can gather leads from your website, but AI can also analyze data, including demographics, to help you better target and reach out to prospects. Let it review massive amounts of data quickly and effectively to provide you with lists of leads most likely to become customers.
Automating communications. Successful sales strategies require several types of communications, and creating these can be quite time consuming. You can use generative AI to assist with personalized outreach and follow-up emails as well as scripts for sales representatives to use during calls, presentations and demos. It can also help make your communications more effective by generating a list of frequently asked questions to address.
Optimizing campaigns and strategies through data. Analyzing data is really where AI shines. You can use these programs to sift through reports and determine the best time to send out communications and the best actions to take with leads. It will even help identify contact information that is potentially incorrect or out of date. Looking forward, AI can further optimize campaigns through predictive analysis based on market trends and sales performance.
The Future is Together
The conversation about the future of AI and sales should be less about programs replacing people and more about how the two can successfully work together. By better understanding the capabilities and limitations of AI, you can plug it into the correct processes to improve overall effectiveness and efficiency.
When sales reps are freed up to focus on critical human-centered tasks, there’s also more room for cross-team collaboration. With AI integration, sales teams can get involved in the conversations around marketing materials, bringing their understanding of clients to the table to create more successful campaigns.
It’s also important to realize that the introduction of AI into sales teams requires a degree of flexibility. Representatives need to understand the best ways to work with the technology and should be open to additional training if necessary. This sort of up-front investment is needed to make the most of the benefits of AI in sales.
Ultimately, artificial intelligence is not something to be feared. Rather, it should be viewed as a tool designed to help reps perform at their best. Combine AI with people, and you have an unbeatable combination.
Are you ready to grow your team and learn the best tactics for how to use AI in your sales strategy? Get in touch with our team at Pareto USA today.