Most everyone is familiar with Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, which relates the story of the greedy old Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Scrooge is visited by three different spirits who show him the various stages of his life—past, present and future—and how the various decisions he made led to his miserable existence. When Scrooge is shown these things and their real consequences, he decides to become a better human being. He not only does so—becoming more loved and respected by the people in his life—but he also becomes more successful.
This story begs an interesting question: if Scrooge had been made aware of his incredibly wrong decisions earlier in his life, would that have made him a better person at a younger age? What if Scrooge had had an “artificial assistant” who could have stored and processed all of his decisions, providing conclusions and a more beneficial (for everyone involved) path for him to take?
Artificial Intelligence: Myth Versus Reality
Throughout the years there has been much written, said and even portrayed in science fiction about artificial intelligence (AI). It has been cast as the new hype, and also as the new, powerful assistant to a human’s decision making. Warnings have also been forecast about AI becoming “the new human.”
Where does the truth lie? Will AI overrun humans in the future, and render them obsolete? Or will it assist them in the many fields of life and business, so that they become more efficient, smarter, faster and capable of making better decisions?
In this article, I will try to find some possible answers to some of these questions, and hopefully, inspire you to think differently about artificial intelligence and how it affects us.
It Begins and Ends with Humans
Artificial Intelligence is defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent behavior or a branch of computer science dealing with the automated simulation of intelligent behavior.
There is certainly a need for AI and its automation of certain processes. But it should be noted that AI is fed historical data by humans, and it then processes, distills and converts that data faster and in higher quantity. But AI can only act upon data that has been collected, input and experienced previously by humans.
So it can be seen that AI could not exist without humans and that it can only assist and support human activity. AI could never, despite dire science fiction predictions, replace human activity.
AI—The Huge Benefit to Sales
So how can AI positively affect sales and lead to more success and effectiveness on both sides of the sales cycle—the seller and the customer?
I don’t see AI as the downturn of the human factor in sales. I see it in a positive way—the future and a new way of increasing positive experience in the whole sales process.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 40 percent of the time spent on sales activities can be automated by AI. That means that a salesperson can save 40 percent of their time on activities that can be computerized, and focus on negotiation with, and closing, prospective customers. This also means a higher closing rate and more money in the pocket of the salesperson, as well as higher customer satisfaction and recurring business or renewals.
Because the sales process can be somewhat complex and consist of multiple activities within sales process steps, AI processes, mimicking the human brain, can shorten the intervals between these steps.
The Human Side
Now let’s look at the human side of sales, which in my opinion could never be replaced.
Sales is all about human interaction and relationships. It begins with a salesperson reaching out to a prospective customer, discovering where they stand and what their pain points are, and building a relationship on trust. Of course, the foundation of a sustainable sales process is two-way trust. Trust also has an emotional component—the feeling of doing the right thing, based on intellectual and trackable arguments and facts.
Combining for Effectiveness
Sales effectiveness involves both the human and AI factors. It means:
- discovering the prospect’s situation (both human and AI)
- defining the actual situation by putting facts together and drawing a conclusion out of existing history (AI)
- making contact and building a relationship (human)
- finding the pain points and isolating the prospect’s needs (human)
- explaining the value of the product or service (human)
- and making sales an overall “feel good” experience for the customer (human).
Buying: An Emotional Decision
Referring to a recent study, we see that almost all of the decisions, whether to buy or not, are based on emotions. Decision-making is emotional, not logical, according to the latest findings in neuroscience.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery. He studied people who had the emotion-generating parts of their brains damaged—they appeared normal, except that they didn’t feel emotions. Interestingly, they all had one thing in common: they wouldn’t make decisions. They could describe what to do in logical terms but found it very difficult even to make the simplest decisions.
Emotions are the very point of choice. So it’s only if logic and emotion come together in the right mix that a decision is made!
Helping the Customer “Feel Right”
It is crucial for the salesperson in their negotiations to create a vision in their customer. The customer wants to make a decision because they want to, and feel that they are convinced of what they are doing.
It is critical to help your customer discover what feels right and what is the most advantageous for them, based on logical, transparent and proven facts. The final decision the customer makes is based on self-interest.
AI In Its Proper Place
There is no doubt that facts drawn out of data and history can be more efficiently processed by an “artificial brain” that is not “distracted” by human factors. It can be of great help and also saves time so that a salesperson can focus on the “human” part of the process, which can’t be substituted by a machine:
- The sensory information that develops through human interaction. The human always uses (subconsciously) their 5 senses.
- The creativity that develops during the process, and is based upon and touches emotions.
- Deductive reasoning—”inventing the wheel” means breaking new ground in knowledge.
- Empathy—known as originated and processed in the right half of the human brain, and is purely human!
So artificial intelligence is and will be a very helpful—and perhaps someday an essential—part of all sales processes, to make them more efficient and successful.
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