If you’ve been paying attention to tech over the past few years, you might have noticed that Artificial Intelligence is emerging as the largest disruptive force in both consumer and business technology.
Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are working collaboratively through open source libraries to develop their A.I. systems, and one of the most popular use cases for A.I. has become sales.
So it’s no wonder that sales leaders everywhere are asking the question: Will A.I. be replacing B2B sales reps anytime soon?
Well in 2015, Forrester analyst Andy Hoar stated that he believed one million sales jobs would be displaced by 2020. This can be a frightening at first. However, sales can't be viewed as a monotonous, generic, single-sided, single-colored industry. It has many different facets and pockets. So in other words, all sales jobs aren’t equal.
In fact, we see at least four types of salespeople across B2B Sales:
- Order Takers
It is true that Order Takers, Navigators, and Explainers may see job losses over the next few years. However, the consultive sales person’s (aka Challenger salesperson) job prospects will increase over the next few years by 10% according to Forrester. Instead of taking jobs away from consultive sales people, A.I. will enhance the ability for these people to educate and challenge buyers. Let’s take a look at how.
Sales reps will spend more time consulting, building relationships, and challenging
Today, the average sales rep only spends about 33% of their time selling according to CSO Insights which means about 67% of your sales reps time is devoted to non-selling activities like answering emails, gathering information, creating content, and *shudder* data entry.
Going into the future, we imagine salespeople spending much closer to 100% of their time selling and consulting decision makers, and A.I. will be the driving force behind this. The first time waster that is being eliminated by technology is data entry. Though they are not yet A.I. products, tools like Collabspot are already saving sales reps more than 4 hours per week while increasing data accuracy and completeness. Sales people that utilize tools like Collabspot are already able to focus on less replicable activities, such as interacting with the customer, building strong customer relationships, solving customer needs, and improving the business.
The next shoe to drop will be predictive analytics solutions that will analyze the accurate and complete data in your CRM and help sales reps understand what their next best action should be. Sales reps will have custom playbooks for each prospect that will let them know when to reach out, what message to send, and how to send it.
Soon it will be commonplace for B2B sales organizations to leverage A.I. to highlight at risk deals, build prospecting pipelines, and create razor targeted forecasts.
A.I. will likely act as the perfect sales assistant, guiding the sales people to take the “perfect” actions at the perfect time.
How can my company take advantage of A.I.
So now we’ve established that A.I. is going to turn your sales organization into a legion of super sales soldiers. But, how can you start to implement this tech into your organization?
Well, it all starts with data and infrastructure. AI requires an immense amount of data that it can learn from which will allow it to make accurate predictions and appropriate decisions.The more accurate, clean, and up to date data that you have, the better A.I. is going to work for you.
So the #1 thing that every sales organization needs to be doing right now is collecting data. This extends beyond simple contact information and firmographics. Intelligent A.I. systems will be able to recreate the best conditions for your team to close a deal. To do that, it’ll need to know what opportunities you won, which opportunities you lost, when did your team members communicate with the prospect and what was said?
The B2B sales organizations that will win over the next ten years are going to be the ones with the most robust data which allows them to pinpoint their activities the best.
So yes, technology will transform the B2B sales industry just as it has every other industry, however that doesn’t mean the occupation is going anywhere anytime soon. Sales people will be required to be more consultative, and technology will help them to educate and challenge their prospects more than ever.
So I for one, welcome our new A.I. sales overlords, and you should too.