Companies can quell fears of job losses and revolutionary working practices brought about by automation by creating a strategy for how the future of sales will look
The future of sales will look a lot different to how it does now as artificial intelligence and automation continue to integrate within business. Tara Bryant, senior vice-president of sales at Pipedrive – a sales software developer based in Estonia – illustrates how it could look.
From the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the digital revolution, the sales industry has grown and adapted at a rapid pace.
Especially in the past 20 years, sales professionals’ work processes have been completely transformed.
Automation and AI are the latest trends shaking and shaping the industry. Automation has undoubtedly increased efficiency and productivity by simplifying time consuming and resource intensive tasks that previously had to be done manually.
However, as with any new technology, there is still some scepticism when it comes to automating the sales processes – concerned voices are questioning how much it will help salespeople, and whether it has the capability to replace them at some point in the future.
To overcome this, senior executives have to make sure that sales professionals understand the benefits of automating specific tasks and how it will affect their jobs and responsibilities.
Supporting teams through the automation process
Any sales manager knows that time spent on mundane admin is time spent away from a potential new lead or a closed deal.
But just because a process has been automated doesn’t mean that the sales team should also have increased targets to deliver on.
If, for example, a company is automating the qualification process and doubles the number of prospects the sales team is now to tackle, this won’t directly translate into the number of closed deals increasing two-fold.
Sales managers have to consider carefully how much pressure they put on their teams in order to increase performance and set them up for success.
Clear processes and incentives should enable them to embrace automation and increase productivity exponentially.
Looking deeper into automation’s impact on the psyche of salespeople
Businesses need to think about the purpose of automating their processes – are they changing existing systems because their teams aren’t doing a good enough job?
Or are they looking to replace employees altogether with fully automated processes?
Many fear that automation might leave them without a job and sales managers should approach this issue with sensitivity and transparency, explaining to their teams that automation will only enhance their performance, not replace them.
It should be framed to teams as a beneficial process that will streamline workloads and increase productivity, enabling the business to stay ahead of the competition.
Who’s behind the controls?
Automation’s greatest benefits are reducing the risk of human error and freeing employees’ time from monotonous tasks.
However, senior executives need to be mindful as to how much they rely on these tools and be mindful they’re removing an element of decision-making and control from the individual – putting the responsibility into the hands of a select group of programmers working behind the scenes.
Technology is constantly evolving and no system is perfect.
As such, companies should frequently check the parameters of the tools they’re using, ensuring they’re updating and upgrading them accordingly.
Working towards an equilibrium
It’s also important that businesses think carefully when automating their processes to make sure they strike the right balance between technology and human input.
If they automate too much the process will become robotic and customers will disengage quickly.
Automate too little and the process will stagnate, decreasing productivity and putting the business at risk of customers leaving for competitors who offer better customer experience.
To find the perfect equilibrium, organisations need to tune out the hype and buzzwords around various technologies and take a look at the bigger picture.
Senior executives can acknowledge the power that automation has to reshape current processes, but also recognise the importance of being human – particularly in sales, where automation will never be as powerful as a good salesperson.
To achieve this, companies need a clear view of where automation can improve the bottom line, and where team members are needed to drive decisions.
Automation undoubtedly has the potential to drive efficiency and boost profits, but it can’t replace a high-performing salesperson.
At the end of the day, a successful sales professional can close a transaction without automation, but the tech can’t build relationships and secure the deal.