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Changing landscape of sales jobs with AI

AI has transformed functions, tasks, workforce skills, results and there is much more to come.

Sudeshna Datta        Last Updated: September 20, 2018  | 20:37 IST
Changing landscape of sales jobs with AI

Now that businesses have seen the kind of revolutionary impact AI and automation can bring, most of them are making a leap towards the advanced technologies. AI has transformed functions, tasks, workforce skills, results and there is much more to come. With sales and marketing functions being the easy playground for AI, business leaders are getting anxious about the immediate impacts of technology on the workforce and job prospects. Their concern remains that AI may take away the jobs of the sales reps. There is a great deal of tension and discussion around this subject. People fear that AI can potentially take away their jobs and anticipate a downturn in the job prospects in sales and marketing functions in the coming times. Every now and then there is a report which justifies how AI is increasingly becoming the cause of unemployment.

But do we need to really worry? May be not. Despite so many negative predictions, there are plenty of reasons to embrace the technology without fearing the loss of jobs. Technology is to support and augment human capabilities, not replace them. The rise of machines in the workplace would rather make the work easier, and even lead to the creation of new jobs.

The reality of AI impact

There is no question on the fact that AI can massively change the face of workforce and functional tasks. As technology becomes more powerful and accessible, more and more activities that were previously done by humans will possibly be automated.

AI is increasingly being used as a sales tool - and this has salespeople nervous. But really, there's no reason to believe that AI is going to steal all sales jobs. What it can do is make their life a little bit easier. Artificial intelligence is transforming sales, both from a tactical and strategic perspective. AI has now progressed from enabling automation to providing salespeople with tactical advantages to delivering a strategic edge.

Automated data capture makes the updates without manual intervention. Phone calls can be put into text notes, email details are captured on the fly, time spent on certain tasks is reduced. AI also provides guidance on the types of actions sales professionals can take at various points in the buying journey by delivering insights to identify where prospects are in the sales funnel. It can help closely examine buyer behavior and analyse large data sets to identify signals, prioritize leads, make smarter product recommendations and determine the best next action that can help salespeople take the right set of actions when the buyer is most receptive.

Why AI can't replace sales jobs?

No matter what all AI can do, there are some jobs where robots or technology is far, far away from being able to match the good old humans and the intelligence they bring along. Machines might be great at processing complex mathematical problems, churning large volumes of data, organizing spreadsheets, and carrying out thousands of tasks in the blink of an eye. What they aren't so good at is establishing human connections, empathizing and reacting quickly in unfamiliar situations. Because at the end of the day, they are machines. They can do good as much and as far as they are trained. This is a difference that remains forever. The value, power and efficiency of AI does not arise from its ability to replace human beings. In fact, automation and AI underscore how vital human insight and expertise are to success.

For sales people, they should know that sales is more of an art, might require some the science of data but its all about bringing the close to a deal with humans by forming a connect. When it comes to human interactions, AI works best when paired with humans. Why? Because AI will never be human.

AI will create jobs rather than displacing them

As the numbers of machines and AI devices increase, so will the need for jobs surrounding them. Robots can't yet look after themselves? They need human intervention ultimately to keep them running smoothly.

This means there will be a demand for people at every stage of the AI journey. From development and testing, through to support, maintenance, and programming, these machines or bots will not be able to function without constant human support.

In fact, it can be said that out of all the new jobs created just a small portion will be filled by actual AI machines. With the future demanding more digital skills, and capabilities like creativity and teamwork, this is domain which is harder for the machines to replicate. Any job which requires a human expertise, creative inputs and touch, will never be taken over by machines or bots. And that's a plain truth.

In the coming times, AI augmentation - a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other, will shape the industry. In sales, AI brainpower is only half of the equation; human insight, the "human touch", is also vital. On the other hand, reps may need to adapt their abilities if they want to thrive in an AI-enhanced sales environment.

Future of Sales with AI

Given the amount of work reps and managers have to do, I'd say that yes, there is a need for AI-enhanced sales. But somehow sales reps will never be totally replaced by sales bots. AI applied to non-routine work will assist humans to let them perform more effectively than either human experts or AI-driven machines working alone. Automation and AI are not eliminating jobs, they are creating them - high-paying, high-level and secure ones at that - at an unprecedented rate. As the levels of data continue to grow, that will create even greater demand.

Instead of fearing that AI and bots will replace jobs, rather its time to prep up the sales reps with the future roles, invest aggressively in training and upskilling them and even apply AI to support their learning. The best opportunity for the future of sales is learning automation, so that the reps are ready to partner with AI to move faster than they are.  

The writer is Executive Vice President and Co-Founder at Absolutdata

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