Artificial Intelligence exemplifies the complex relationship between humans and machines. It’s a technology that we interact with almost every day, through voice-controlled assistants like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, which simplify so many of our daily tasks. Yet, most people do not fully understand, and more importantly, trust artificial intelligence.
E-Commerce is one of the major areas where AI is making its mark. Some of the most beloved consumer brands like Amazon and Netflix use this technology to power their recommendation engines, but most people do not realise that it is AI that’s working in the background. Like these popular brands, AI is also increasingly being used by many brands across the globe as a sales tool, and this has made salespeople nervous. There is a lingering fear among most people that the machines will take over our jobs, making human intelligence redundant. The truth, however, couldn’t be any farther from this. In fact, what it can do is make their job a little bit easier. How?
While AI cannot take over everyday activities like data entry, scheduling, and content curation, automation can most certainly help them prioritize which calls to make, who to contact, which prospects to focus on to ensure sales conversions, etc. Considering the amount of responsibility that salespeople and managers have, AI-enhanced sales processes will go a long way in streamlining their efforts. With machines taking care of the analytical work, salespeople can focus their efforts towards applying their human intelligence and taking their interactions with prospective customers to a new whole new level with the help of the machine’s insights.
In sales, AI and human intelligence are two vital halves of an equation. Even with the proliferation of automation across various other business processes, this equation isn’t bound to change. Why? Simply because humans are indispensable to the sales process, and when it comes to interacting with customers, AI can deliver superior results when paired with humans. On the other hand, sales reps will be required to adapt their abilities in order to function in an AI-enhanced sales environment. Some of the key skills that salespersons will be required to incorporate into their job roles are:
- Relationship building: As humans, we prefer to conduct business or deal with people we trust. Salespeople, then, must build that trust in their customers and nurture relationships in the long term. While AI might advise a rep as to what product to offer a customer and why it’s ultimately up to the human being to deliver the message in the most appealing way. For instance, seeing a product recommendation made by a machine on your screens is like getting an automated birthday email – it doesn’t mean much. But receiving an e-card from a dear friend means a lot more.
- Reading people: Reading people stems from social intelligence which all of us primarily learn from the society we live in and interact with on daily basis. It is a quality we develop from regular conversations with people and picking up cues from their verbal and non-verbal expressions. When they that the ‘machines might replace the humans’, what it really means is that AI might be able to record conversations and understand words, but processing and comprehending subtext, sarcasm, facial expressions, and other subtle nonverbal (often non-readable) signals is up to the sales rep. These impressions are immensely original, meaningful and are (so far) the exclusive purview of the human brain.
- Technical aptitude: Salespersons don’t need to be data scientists, but the ability to use and understand technology, and apply AI-based insights will become increasingly important. How well humans can use the results and outputs of the machines is no less than a skill. As much as sales reps or the humans learn to become compatible with machines, understand its language and augment the capabilities, it becomes essential for a successful human- machine partnership.
- Willingness to learn: Technology is only going to continue evolving, and there’s very little that can be done to stop that. However, to operate in a tech-driven environment, what salespersons can do is update their skill. The enthusiasm to learn and imbibe new ideas is a definite plus. Willingness to learn not only help to upscale human skills but also help sales reps to become adaptive to the technology changes ahead.
- Creativity: Many AI experts see analysis as the forte of the machine brain and imagination as the stronghold of the human brain. Creativity, then, will be especially important for those in leadership positions, as they look for ways to inspire their team members.
We are undeniably moving towards a future of human-machine collaboration. Those who are prepared to for developments in the future will be the ones to thrive in this brave new world. Whereas, those who don’t may find themselves grappling with a making sense of a world that will only keep moving ahead, with or without them.
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Rajat Narang has 12+ years of experience in providing analytical solutions across several industry verticals. He heads the products team at Absolutdata Analytics with expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data analytics, CRM analytics, Market research analytics and Market mix modeling. He has productized and implemented multiple analytical solutions for clients.