The automated sales model being implemented by Amazon, with many other ecommerce sites following suit, may seem somewhat threatening to a sales force and B2B sales. If you yourself have ever purchased from Amazon or a similar vendor, you probably recall that you have never spoken to a live person, not to mention a salesperson as part of that transaction.
It is clear that straight transactional sales, in the near future, will all likely be computerized like Amazon’s are. This includes recommendations for other items you might like to purchase such as similar books or music. It’s beginning to include associated events such as concerts, book signings or lectures and even tickets all of which can be purchased right from the same site.
A Consultative Sale Requires Subtlety, Expertise, and Patience
Note, however, that these types of sales are B2C (business-to-consumer) sales, and for items that are pretty straightforward. When a consumer purchases such a product, they’re not seeking any kind of advice on how, for example, a Beyoncé album might help address various issues in their life. A consumer usually knows exactly why they’re buying one of these products.
In B2B sales, however, we’re not only normally dealing in more complex products and services, but a much longer list of the impacts associated with implementation and use such a product or service would have on a company. For example, a manufacturer might be considering buying a sophisticated 3D modeling program so they can readily see what kind of processes would be required in manufacturing of a certain product, and then how that product would stand up in a variety of circumstances—this could all be done before committing to the considerable expense of manufacturing a prototype. Some of the questions that might be asked are: How accurate is the program? What is its flexibility? How lifelike are the renderings? How much training is required to operate and utilize the system? From an IT standpoint, a very important question would be: Will it run on our existing hardware or must we engage in an expensive upgrade?
A fair number of these questions could be answered via a trip through the company’s web site. But there are many others that could only be answered by direct consultation with a knowledgeable sales rep who knows and uses insight selling. There is no machine or computer that can look into a company with its unique characteristics, problems, people and configuration and evolve a real assessment of exactly how a product or service will impact that company.
CRM Solution Isn’t a Replacement for Relationship Building
Although sometimes touted as something that can instantly make for great customer relationships all by itself, CRM technology cannot replace human interaction, either. A CRM solution cannot in itself relate to a prospect company and gather relevant data about that company—that takes a human salesperson.
A leading-edge CRM solution is not designed to try and replace live salespeople in B2B sales. It actually empowers the sales force and sales pipeline management, making it possible for insight sales to take place as rapidly and efficiently as possible. It supports the sales force, it doesn’t attempt to replace it.
Trust, As in All Human Interactions, Is Key
This entire issue comes down to trust. When it comes to complex offerings and the issues they must solve, a buyer or decision-maker in a company is not going to trust a machine or its insight (whatever that might be). Until the day we have reasoning artificial intelligence of the sort seen in Star Trek, the only insightful entity that will be selling in the B2B sales arena will be a sales rep.
So no, the B2B sales force will not be replaced by machines for many years to come.