The bots are coming, make no mistake, and they're not just taking blue collar or low skill roles. Manufacturing bots have been here for decades and now writer-bots are disrupting journalism, driver-bots are taking over warehouses, and software-bots are driving web traffic and eCommerce. If you think that Uber is disrupting the taxi industry... wait until Google Self-driving Car. Ashley Madison was using software sex-bots to dupe male members... cheating the cheaters; how ironic. Buy-bots and Sales-bots are here now; you just need to open your eyes. Not convinced... watch this compelling short video and then we'll discuss how you can bot-proof your own career. Seriously, watch the video now.
There will always be a role for human-to-human (H2H) selling but if all you do is provide a form of connection or information dissemination... then you're doomed just like the dinosaurs. The machine age is upon us and singularity (the moment individual computers match the level of human intelligence and become capable of recursive self-improvement) is projected to will occur in approximately 2030 (2050 at the latest).
An article published here by BBC News summarizes research carried out by Oxford University and Deloitte that reveals 35% of jobs are at risk of being computerized in the next 20 years (thanks Jonathan Farrington sending this to me). It is worth reading and ranks jobs in order of which are most likely to be lost to machines.
Natural language has been one of the biggest challenges for computers due to nuance, ambiguity, humor and syntax. English language is one of the most difficult but look at the progress Siri, Google Now and Cortana have made in dealing with these challenges plus the problem of accent. When a computer first beat the world's best chess player we thought that was no big deal because chess is game of pure logic and what-if scenarios. But A.I is a whole new game... Watson reads online encyclopedias and trolls the internet to create its own databases. It doesn't forget and has photographic memory. It can also understand weak links and attribute meaning to obscure questions. ... it can understand the spoken word and then respond at lightening speed to mop the floor with the very best Jeopardy players in the world. It's a stunning achievement. This video clip is short but the full documentary is worth watching.
So, how important is it to fire-proof your sales career? According to Andy Hoar at Forrester Research, there is only one segment of professional selling that will continue to grow. In his April 2015 report, Death of a (B2B) Salesman, he details the results of surveying 236 buyers. Andy says “B2B buyer behavior has changed significantly in the past few years” and he believes that more than 1 million sales reps in the United States will lose their jobs by 2020. That equates to more than 22% of sales roles that will be gone and he claims that 93% of buyers prefer buying online when they’ve already decided what to buy.
Here is the brutal reality for those in sales concerning job prospects:
- Order Takers: 33% Job losses by 2020
- Explainers: 25% Job losses by 2020
- Navigators: 15% Job losses by 2020
- Consultants: 10% Job gain for those who can adapt
I've mapped Andy's [Forrester Research] terminology into my own quadrants that I've used for years (from my first book in 2010) and here's the stark picture.
Forrester says that only 25% of B2B businesses actively sell online today yet the cost of sale reduces from $24.50 to $1.50. Any business selling a commodity must explore ways to reduce cost of sale and those who operate on the left side are in trouble. Those in the bottom right need to elevate because relationships alone are not enough... insight and value is the new black.
So how can sales people avoid digitally driven extinction? The answer is value – the creation of value for customers and employer through traditional concepts leveraged through technology.
We live in a human world and emotional connections are what influence us, motivate us, and inspire us. Everything old (value selling, solution selling, insight selling, trusted advisor, etc.) will be new again because it's how to best differentiate in a human world. Challenger Selling has a real role but only for those who can adopt blended engagement models where differentiation is created through the combination of digital and human interaction.
"I predict a great future for those in sales but only if they can create relationships of trust with the most senior people and then provide value through insight and innovation"
Learn to also innovate in the way you sell through mash-ups of proven selling principles combined with new world digital engagement to meet and serve your markets and customers, where they are and how they prefer to interact. Sales must move higher up the value chain to conduct the digital symphony. In many ways, this will bring you closer to the customer than ever – if they let you in. You must be the signal amidst the noise to break through and this is why leading with insight and having business acumen is so important.
Finally, watch this short video that captures the thoughts of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking... the bots here are real (no CGI) and online salesbots are more advanced than those seeking to navigate the physical world to go to war. Look at marketing software such as Hubspot for lead scoring and nurturing to see how automation and disruption is real for professional selling. Wake up if you don't want to be replaced; define the value you bring your employer and customers.
If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:www.TonyHughes.com.au.
Main image photo from Flickr.