It’s no secret that we’re currently on the brink of an unprecedented AI revolution. Over the past few decades, technology has quickly taken over the way we live. Many of us today use our computers to make a living and it’s now simply the cultural norm to rely on technology as your primary source of entertainment among many other things.
With the vast efficiencies and capabilities that technology brings, it’s easy to understand why technology has become so omnipresent in our lives. What would have taken our ancestors weeks to write on a manuscript can now be drafted in a matter of days on any word processor. In the past the speed at which this process could be completed was limited by the speed at which you could type but now we can draft as quickly as we speak thanks to modern voice to text technology, granted edits will be necessary. However, in the near future there will come a time when our computers can not only transcribe our words but also revise it to a final draft for us. In fact, it will actually be capable of accomplishing a great deal more than that.
The driving force that will deliver us these amazing new capabilities is called natural language understanding which is a subtopic in the broader field of artificial intelligence. We’re not there yet but it’s only a matter of time before a computer is built that will have the ability to code changes into itself. Soon thereafter we’ll be dealing with what is called artificial-superintelligence which is AI that achieves a level of intelligence greater than all of humankind. It would be too lengthy to discuss this idea in its entirety as well as its ramifications for society but if you’re curious to learn more about it, this is actually a really good article that does an amazing job of providing a comprehensive overview of the current state of AI and where its headed.
Instead this article will focus on the impact that AI will have on the professional world of sales. Like many other sectors, salespeople will see their jobs being impacted in some way or another by artificial intelligence with many of them possibly even losing their jobs to it. NPR put out an interesting interactive that provides predictions of how likely your job is to be taken over by a machine if you’re curious to check that out. AI will indeed have an impact on blue-collar jobs but interestingly enough data shows that in fact there are many more use cases that threaten the security of white-collar jobs than blue-collar ones. We’ll touch more on what this means for the modern sales professional a little later in this article.
For the most part though we can expect that in most instances AI will augment rather than replace the work that we perform. We’re seeing the the start of this already with a myriad of AI business solutions like Einstein from Salesforce. Einstein currently offers things like predictive lead scoring, lead insights, as well as predictions and alerts for high priority opportunities with a strong likelihood to close. That’s not to say though that Salesforce is the only player or the best vendor in the space.
There are a tremendous number of other businesses as well that are trying to leverage the benefits that AI offers for commercial success. These include companies like x.ai, Spiro, Clearbit Connect, LeadCrunch and Crystal, each of which provide some very interesting value propositions. X.ai is a virtual assistant who schedules meetings on your behalf by proposing free times and automatically sending calendar invites for agreed appointments. Spiro is another type of virtual assistant but one that’s focused on helping sales professionals stay focused on top prospects by sending reminders and notifications based on previous activity within a deal cycle. Clearbit Connect is a gmail plugin that’s leveraging AI to streamline the arduous process of prospecting by taking care of the search for emails and LinkedIn profiles for you. LeadCrunch is another notable business assisting in the prospecting realm and one that helps identify new potential customers based on your existing customer profiles. The final business on our list, Crystal is a service that’s looking to coach sales professionals on how best to reach out to their prospects by considering their personality and communication styles.
Understandably to some of you these products may seem gimmicky and to others it may simply be more money than you’re willing to pay for the benefits. However the underlying message here is not that these are all businesses or services we need to be taking advantage of right now. Rather, what should excite us is the fact that we’re seeing seedlings of what will soon be a technological revolution that will bring tremendous convenience to the everyday sales professional that has never been available before.
For the average salesperson this would mean they no longer have to deal with manual data entry and will instead have a future CRM that can automatically track and log all of their activities for them. Companies like Sudo are making the early inroads towards making this ethereal vision a reality through a virtual assistant chatbot. Though a chatbot isn’t the minimal user interface CRM that you may be imagining it’s again important to recognize that these are the initial steps towards a more convenient future.
Thanks to Moore’s law what is a chatbot today can quickly evolve into an intelligent personal assistant that’s possibly even more advanced than the ones we carry around in our smartphones today. Additionally, this same CRM could possibly even prospect and conduct outreach on our behalf while leveraging the benefits of increased insights better than any human ever could.
And as time continues, mergers and acquisitions as well as more efficient development cycles will lead to the merging of the many capabilities we’ve discussed so far which should be even more exciting news to the modern sales executive.
A future with artificial intelligence will likely mean a future where professional data is so abundant, connected and available that records can be updated in real time eliminating the whole notion of “dirty data” or outdated information. Reports and summaries could be built in a matter of minutes upon verbal request to a computer and the costly process of finding and building target lists can be as easy as asking, “Computer, what is my addressable market?”.
What this means for the modern sales professional is that you’re life is going to get a lot easier over the next few decades but only if you have a sales job that isn’t likely to be automated by a machine. This technological revolution won’t take place tomorrow or next week but it’s important to understand that it is indeed a serious and imminent trend and one that needs to be taken into consideration when planning for your career. The best way to understand whether or not your job has a high likelihood of being automated is to look at your job description. The more your work is repetitive in nature and requires little to no cognitive judgement to complete the more likely your job is to be replaced by a machine because the financial and productivity incentives for businesses will be too strong to ignore. These would likely be roles in an administrative, business development or otherwise entry level function in a sales organization.
The next most likely group to feel pressure on their job security are those that are charged with maintaining a sales process or system. Reason being, at the moment these duties do require some level of human oversight but there will be a time when AI evolves from artificial narrow intelligence to artificial general intelligence and because a machine has no need for food, sleep, insurance or a raise, it’s inevitable for businesses to start replacing some of their workforce with these machines. This would probably apply to many folks working in a sales operation capacity.
The jobs least likely to be impacted and taken over the pending AI revolution are those that inherently requires some human element of thought or trust. Because humans are social creatures, no matter how efficient machines can become and how closely they can resemble our intelligence, there is a level of human trust that can’t be built up with a machine. As such there will always be some need for “human” reassurance in business. These roles will likely revolve around things like sales strategy, contract negotiations, training or coaching and the like.
If you want to learn more on how to slowly develop a career path towards these kinds of roles, check out the Rainmaker platform for sales professionals. There you can check out new opportunities are there for your in the next step of your sales career and also see how you stack up against your peers. It’s a great resource to get a better understanding of your professional competency and to make sure you’re not leaving any untapped opportunities on the table.
Dean Park is a seasoned tech sales professional that’s been involved with a wide range of organizations from startups to enterprise businesses. Dean is also a sales mentor at GrowthX Academy in San Francisco.
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