According to Forbes, the roles that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will first eliminate are: Factory workers, couriers, investment analysts, security guards, and _____________.
Is “B2B Sales” the last on the list?
Well, I first want to share with you my own expert take on this. The concern of whether or not AI robots will replace salespeople boils down to this: Can AI ever sell as well as humans can?
The answer right now is a resounding NO. But what about in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? With AI getting smarter by the second, will it eventually outpace our top salespeople and displace them from a career they are so passionate about?
Quick Note: I say “our top salespeople,” because let’s be honest, some salespeople sound like robots on the phone already. They read yawn-inducing scripts with a monotone voice. AI can already outsell them in its sleep. In this article, I’m talking about competent and driven salespeople. Will THEY be replaced by AI?
Here’s my take on it: NOT. A. CHANCE.
AI cannot perform the most important functions of selling. That is, they cannot show true empathy, build trust, and forge human-to-human connections. They cannot pick up the nuances of human psychology. And they certainly cannot map out the prospect’s deepest pain points in order to prescribe them an antidote to the pain.
In other words, AI will always be playing checkers while humans are playing chess — at least when it comes to sales.
Let’s break these down.
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Empathy, Trust, and Human-to-Human Connection
Human-to-human connections are vital to the sales process. AI will eventually get to the point of building connections, but these will be robot-to-human connections, which are far inferior to human-to-human connections. So long as AI lacks a beating heart, there’s no way enough trust can be earned to slowly and surely persuade or influence someone to your point of view, which is essentially what sales is.
Put aside the closing of high-ticket deals, even just getting past the gatekeeper often requires empathy, trust, and connection. If gatekeepers already have their guard up for flesh-and-blood humans, just imagine how quickly they will reject machines! We’ll go from having meaningful conversations 30% of the time, to having meaningful conversations 0.001% of the time. Not a good trend. “But, but… sales is a numbers game” some will cry. Not true! Especially knowing that robots can scorch an entire industry of prospects in a single day. Who will say “yes” when everyone has already said “no”?
Can’t Pick up on Nuances of Human Psychology
AI will likely never be able to detect and interpret body language the way humans can. This is true for in-person sales meetings, but it’s doubly-true for phone sales. There are hundreds of almost imperceptible sounds, silences, and rhythm and tonal changes, etc. that your prospects do on a five-minute call. Each of these must be put into context and then leveraged by the salesperson to make the sale. Nothing is black-and-white. It’s up to the salesperson to creatively problem solve on-the-fly based on the macro- AND micro-feedback that their prospect is giving out. Good luck, robots! There is simply too much complexity for AI to handle.
Pain Points and Deepest Needs
People buy based on emotions. They typically don’t make buying decisions based on logic or data alone. When a salesperson identifies pain points and seeks to offer a solution, a real need surfaces. Then, using strategic questioning and listening, the salesperson can map out the journey to healing — which is to say, lead the prospect to buy their product or service. AI can ask questions, sure, but no algorithm can ever get to the bottom of someone’s wants, wishes, desires, fears, anxieties, etc. in order to help them overcome. This effort will be superficial at best, as human prospects simply won’t open up to machines like they do other humans.
What Robots Can Enhance in Sales
AI isn’t all bad. In fact, I’m bullish on the use of AI in relieving some of the painstaking tasks that salespeople currently perform. And so I believe AI will continue to help with the tedium of *some* prospecting, scheduling, CRM management, sales forecasting, and the list goes on. These are all necessary tasks that salespeople normally don’t enjoy doing, so why not hire them out to AI robots?
Even now, we can sign up with AI services to give us better insight into sales intel. AI can help us learn what’s working and what’s not working on sales calls (opening lines, call duration, etc.). So I do believe AI will continue to enhance the salesperson’s effectiveness, but there’s simply no way it will ever replace the salesperson altogether.
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The Specific Roles AI Will Replace
Going back to the _____________. What is the final role that Forbes claims will be eliminated by AI in the coming years? Well, as if to punctuate this article, it isn’t sales! It’s actually customer service. And I’d add a few others to the list that might be going the way of the dinosaurs:
- Insurance adjusters
- Cybersecurity professionals
- Travel agents
- Software developers
If you’re reading this and worried about your beloved career of sales, take heart. While recent advancements in AI have proven groundbreaking and even scary at times, there’s no need for an existential crisis. Salespeople will be around for at least another 50-100 years. But I will say, it’s going to look different. There will be a heavy emphasis on AI aides. And the salespeople (and companies!) who stand to profit most will strategically adopt and use AI where it counts.
So it’s time to embrace AI, just don’t worry that robots will take your job next year. They won’t. Instead, focus on becoming the top salesperson in your company and the industry. The better you get at sales (or whatever you do in life!), the harder you will be to replace.