Midway through the 1990s, the birth of the internet was in our grasp. Early adopters were having fun with some chat software and creating their first email accounts. Some websites started to pop up. Yet most were not using it. Most didn’t care about it. Looking back it seems like it was overnight that the internet came by storm and before we knew it, our way of life was completely changed by this innovation. Access to information became more and more public. Now in hindsight, it seems like it was inevitable that e-commerce would be adopted en masse.
Even though I wasn’t part of the workforce during those times, I do remember one of the quotes from that time: “The Internet will kill the salesperson. We won’t need them as the guardians of product information, we can find it ourselves!”.
Yet the salesperson remains today. Why is that? Well, the role changed. It isn’t as much about product information now. It’s about client understanding. It’s about filtering through the overwhelm of information created by the internet. In a perfect world, we could trust a sales representative to ask us the relevant questions needed to have a full understanding of what we are looking for. The problems we need to solve. Truly guide us in making a decision to see if there is a fit with the product.
There is a buzz around the internet these days. My social media feed is filled with pictures of my friends, family, and influencers being drawn by AI art apps. It’s very cute. It’s fun to see. Yet I’m reminded of those early days in the 90s when the first way I was using the internet, was to have fun, and play video games with friends.
Behind the scenes, I can feel that big changes are coming. I think it will be even bigger that the internet itself. Artificial intelligence is here to stay. And just like when the internet came, I’m left thinking about what some of the first whispers will be in the sales industry: “Is it the end of the salesperson?”.
If you had a chance to explore tools like OpenAI’s chatbot, GPT-3 Demo, it’s mind- blowing. You can type in any question, it can give you answers pulled from every corner of the internet. It can even write emails for you, articles, and expand on any information you asked for. I found myself testing the tool as I was giving training to my students on closing sales. It was fascinating on how it could give me the exact information I needed, in the format I needed it, immediately. No google searches. No research to validate this. Just…
AI is amazing, but not perfect (yet). Just like we can’t imagine a company that isn’t online now, we soon will not be able to think about if a company will have AI or not. Companies will use AI, or they will die.
So going back to sales: What will this look like? Here are three things you need to think about in your business to make use of AI, now and in the very near future.
1. Information at your fingertips
It’s not you, your competitors will use AI. Platforms are already coming out to find all the relevant information about our prospects ahead of your conversation. Imagine when you receive a name, email, and a booking on your calendar tool, and you automatically get a full view of this person. Their job, how long they had it, where did they work before, and the praise they got from co-workers – all served in an easy-to-access profile for your sales call. You can even see if they are married, single, divorced, with kids, everywhere they lived before. You can even know if they are fans of Football (Soccer) and what team they support. All this is already available across the internet. Yet with AI assist, you’ll have it all prepared and served for you. Building rapport will be different.
Now think about company information. You can have all the press releases, news, and financial reports presented to you. You can speak with the potential client with a full understanding of their current goals, and current struggles and position your service or product to fit into their existing models.
The empowered salesperson will be wise, will not waste time, and will be able to focus less on research, and more on conversations and connections.
Doesn’t sound so bad, doesn’t it?
2. Self Serve Sales Processes
Imagine you are focused on content creation as one of your marketing efforts, and every day, AI can see who is interacting with it. They see what else they are posting and can predict who is most ready for a conversation. Then, your AI chatbot automatically reaches out uniquely to these people to suggest they book an appointment with you. It coordinates to pick the time, it asks them to prepare questions and of course, the bot confirms the appointment as well.
You just show up, being you.
It’s not like any of this doesn’t exist already. But it does require some tech-savviness to be accessible to most. In the very near future, this will be as easy as connecting to Wi-Fi. This means you need to focus more and more on your craft, your message, and your salesmanship. The bits and pieces that gave the competitive advantage to those who understood tech… will soon disappear. It will be a level playing field for all. As long as you are ready to embrace the new wave of AI as it comes in.
3. Automation of your Influence
As a content creator, I pick guests to interview, speak on topics myself and make sure it’s distributed where it needs to go. Already, there is software that exists where it can listen to every piece of content I created. It can replicate my voice. Other programs can take my face, and make me say any words I want. So in essence, my face and my voice will soon be completely automated to say whatever is written. And as we saw above, the AI can write it too.
Can you imagine your entire content strategy will be AI finding trending topics, then scripting a great answer to that topic, automating the audio response to that script in YOUR voice, and then making a video of YOUR face? Posting it across all the channels, optimized for SEO, and all the right thumbnails. You could be producing thousands of videos…. A day!
This last one is a little scary. But it’s coming. What I want to leave you with is a message that is a reminder. It’s the same as when the internet came. It was a big change for sales and marketing. Yet for success, here is what you can double down on:
Focus on value of your products, Relationships and Personal Brand.
Create happy clients with every sale. Build relationships with those in your industry and let your brand be a beacon of integrity and impact. The rise of the AI is coming, and if what you do is of high quality, the AI will be better to spot it, and recommend you to others as well. Don’t need to fear the future. Be open to embrace change. I am an optimist though, and as such, I think the future with AI will be more human (ironically!)
Keep creating. Keep serving. And of course, Keep selling with love.