04.15.19

Technology is not a substitute for quality relationships and human interactions

KARL R. LAPAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE NIIC


Photo by Lukas on Unsplash

A recent prediction in Fortune Magazine had an A.I.Expert say Automation Could Replace 40% of Jobs in 15 Years, but wait – is that possible in sales?

There’s no question that technology (AI, AR, machine learning and the like) will continue to transform the industry landscape. But if you think an all-robot sales team is the wave of the future, think again. Technology is not a substitute for relationships. The human touch is critical to the sales process.

We are all in sales, but looking at successful salespeople, they share some common threads – First, they build strong relationships and have a solid understanding of a client’s needs while understanding the value created by their products or services. Second, the most effective salespeople are engaged listeners, empathetic and storytellers. Today, technology cannot rise to this level, at least not yet. In the future, the most sustainable solutions will need to marry a human’s emotional needs with their desire to be efficient and productive.

SnapApp reminds us, “Today, there is an average of 5.4 stakeholders involved in any given sale. On top of that, buyers are much more educated – 90% of the buying process is over before a salesperson talks to a lead.”

With this in mind, here are some examples in which this can come alive – the 3Cs – custom solutions, coordination/collaboration, and connectivity:

1. Custom Solutions: To truly understand customer priorities, businesses need to understand their customer’s values, motivations, and pain points. Salespeople must listen carefully and follow up with intelligent questions and innovative solutions to solve their customer’s problems.

However, technology presents an opportunity to take this further. AI tools can analyze the findings. Predictive analytics can connect the dots between data to make it into usable information and speed up the sales process. In short, these tools identify patterns that help salespeople discern whether a custom product or a no-frills one is appropriate. Personalization and customization of product and service offerings will be key to the future.

2. Coordination/collaboration: The sales cycle doesn’t end with the sale. If it’s a physical good, it may need to be packaged and shipped. Ultimately, salespeople are responsible for making sure the product arrives when promised or the solution is implemented on time, within budget and as promised. But sometimes they face delivery and logistical challenges. This is where AI has potential. A robust B2B platform can improve organizational transparency and alignment so that all parties can feel like they are part of a well-oiled team and aligned on their metrics and customer satisfaction goals.

3. Connectivity/Connections: While tools like chatbots are becoming more prevalent in the customer service space, they aren’t without flaws. (For one, they can’t detect emotion.) While these tools can be useful for front-line communication, they aren’t a substitute for human connection. For example, if a customer has a concern that needs to be escalated, they aren’t going to ask to speak to a robot but a live human being. Never underestimate the power of a phone call or face-to-face interaction to strengthen or regain trust and build an important emotional connection.

Technological advancements will no doubt help organizations enhance, improve, and expand their customer relationships. But we can’t overlook the underlying truth that human beings will still need to be part of the equation.

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