Artificial intelligence is a buzzword for a reason — the technology is getting bigger and better with every passing day. While that growth is exciting for tech enthusiasts, others are worried. There’s a great deal of fear-mongering in the press about the notion of robots “taking over the world” (and our jobs). So what’s the deal? Is AI here to help or harm our workforce?
To understand AI’s effect on the market, you need to know what it is and what it isn’t. In short, AI is a broad concept referring to machines carrying out tasks in a way we’d describe as “smart.” It isn’t meant to replace human jobs — it’s meant to enhance them.
Related to AI is machine learning, an application of AI that feeds data back into machines so they can learn based on that information. If you’ve ever used an email spam filter or seen Netflix’s suggested shows and movies laid out for you, you’ve seen AI and machine learning at work.
Let’s also consider what AI isn’t. It’s not a horde of robots. It’s not emotional the way humans are because there’s no reason to program it as such. It’s best at carrying out simple, repetitive tasks quickly and uniformly.
When you think of it this way, you begin to see AI’s incredible potential for teams across the board — especially sales teams.
AI: Your Sales Team’s New Best Friend
Some fear over AI transforming the workforce is completely legitimate, but not for the reasons you might think. What AI and machine learning could change the most is our need to stay current. We’ve always had to keep up with the market’s trends and demands, but never at a rate this fast. With AI, skills become obsolete far sooner than at any point in the past. But that means your company and sales team should run toward AI rather than away from it.
One of the biggest rewards to reap from AI is better sales tools that cut through the noise of the market and help sellers keep their eyes on the prize. Mediafly, for example, uses machine learning to help sellers customize and contextualize content; it integrates with customer relationship management platforms and points out content teams can share with customers depending on where they are in the sales cycle. It takes on the grunt work, allowing your salespeople to have an easier time closing deals.
This alters how salespeople can operate in two ways: It allows them to build longer-lasting relationships and create more engagement. Long-lasting, engaged relationships are essential now because we live in a subscription economy; relationships go far beyond the initial point of sale, and we have to keep customers happy in the long term.
Taking the Reins on AI
If that’s not enough to quell your fears, take further action to ensure you (and your sales team) are ahead of the learning curve. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Accept only the best tools.
Salespeople who use AI or machine learning deserve the best tools for their job. There are many options, but a safe bet is to find tools that empower team members to spend more time on revenue-generating tasks than on busy work. Use this simple criterion to identify the best tools for your team: Which tools will eliminate the tedious administrative tasks and allow your salespeople to focus on building relationships?
2. Get creative on the ‘how.’
The value of a customer goes far beyond a one-time sale, and AI can help unlock that value. Use AI tools to solve client problems creatively over time.
For example, I know of one HR-solutions company that uses an AI tool to flag the number of emergency room visits made by its clients’ employees. Emergency room visits are often incredibly expensive, so the company is able to train employees on other healthcare options when the AI flags too many instances. This was a significant value-add for clients, and the HR-solutions company changed its recruiting process to ensure new hires were curious about similar efficiency-related solutions.
3. Think like a customer.
Customers have more agency over their purchases than ever before, so it’s crucial to consider things from their perspective. Take the time to map customer journeys a few stages beyond a purchase: when and how they implement your product/service, the problems they hope your company will solve for them, life after working with your company, and any snags they might hit along the way. AI affords you this room to think broadly and creatively, so take advantage of it!
AI is not coming to put your salespeople out of work — it’s coming to help them. So ignore any fear-mongering myths and look toward the positive. AI will help your sales team focus more on generating revenue and building relationships with customers, which is why they got into the field in the first place. What’s not to like?
If you want to learn more about managing sales teams into the future, download GrowthPlay’s free ebook, “Strength, Styles, and Skills: A Triple Fit Approach to Sales Talent.”