Sales disruption

The Buy-bot Disruption of Professional Selling


I was a keynote speaker along with Andrew Vorster at a conference last month and he delivered a provocative presentation titled: The Rise of the Robots. I believe that automation is taking sales jobs away and I had a coffee with him to ask if sales people are all destined to become extinct sometime soon. Here is his response.

"I get a range of reactions but most importantly I aim to get people to think about their preconceptions so they can decide on the future they are going to create. Hollywood has done a great job over the years entrenching the idea of the inevitability of a future robot apocalypse."

"Arnie’s terminator might be a good guy in the movies but each time the franchise is rebooted, Skynet has managed to foil the pesky humans and there is some other dastardly plan to rid the earth of people and by the end...  well, you know it’s not the end and the next sequel will reveal just how futile resistance is."

But is it inevitable?

"We humans essentially all yearn for an easy life and in today’s world, robots are increasingly taking over mundane and routine tasks. The most common form of these are software robots – which most people might not even consider robots at all. As we embrace the opportunities of the Internet of Everything, we allow the software robots to remove friction from simple everyday activities. Examples in my own life are my connected thermostat that adjusts the temperature of my house depending on our habits and will turn on the heating while I commute home based on my location, or my bedroom blinds that open and close based on sunrise and sunset, or my home lighting that reacts to the music I’m playing based on my mood or my front door that unlocks as I approach the house (my next project). These small insignificant but frequent interactions begin to build a complex digital profile of me – a virtual representation of me that makes my life easier."

How far away are digital assistants that will disrupt sellers?

"When Apple introduced Siri, it seemed like a bit of a novelty but we have since seen Google, Cortana and many other “digital assistants” follow suit, all based around fairly simple search and response style constructs. A Kiwi company called MyWave have a digital assistant called Frank which expands on the concept and Frank can potentially start carrying out more complex tasks on your behalf.

Wow, could this automated buying have a disempowering impact on Business-to-business sellers as it matures?

"It's here for B2C today and B2B levels of sophistication are coming. Their demo shows how Frank can help you find a new pair of jeans, based on your brand, style and color preferences; and I have no doubt that in the future this could include an indication of who in your social network has already bought the jeans and maybe Frank could even make alternative suggestions based on what events you are attending from access to your calendar. To some people this might sound a little creepy but I think that over time the cool factor will kick in and the use of digital personal assistants will become more and more commonplace. As adoption increases, so will our expectations of the technology and we will begin to accept that in order for these assistants to become infinitely more useful, they have to become even more like us – they are going to have to “think” like us"

"Moving away from the idea of personal digital assistants, if software hardware it controls “thinks like us” then there is of course much more it can do to help us and it could potentially replace us in many walks of life. For a sobering view of what the future of work might look like, take a look at this article that highlights why men are more vulnerable than women to robot replacement."

"And here comes the warning of the “singularity” – that point in time predicted by the greatest minds on the planet when Artificial Intelligence becomes self aware – or when the distinction between humans and machines is blurred. Indeed, Ray Kurzweil (the founder of MIT’s Media Lab) predicts that by 2030 humans will be directly connected to the cloud – something that just a few short years ago would have sounded insane, but now sounds like something that for many is infinitely desirable."

"Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are among the high profile names that are warning of the possible dire consequences of future AI and they have signed an open letter published by the Future of Life Institute calling for careful consideration of the focus and control required in developing this technology."

So, the future sounds like it could be bleak but you and I are optimists. What does the future really hold?

"I’m going to answer your question with the closing statement that I used in my session –  the future is not something that happens to us, it is something that we create. If we are all wiped out by killer robots, it will be our own fault – what kind of a future are you building?"

Thanks Andrew Vorster and connect with him here in LinkedIn.

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

Main image photo from Flickr.

Humans Need Not Apply For These Roles

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

Main image photo from Flickr.