For well over a decade, the impending demise of the (human) salesperson has been the topic of conversation. The theory goes something like this: at some point in the near future, artificial intelligence will become so advanced that it will completely eliminate the need for a human seller, leaving the millions of people who make their living in sales without a job. For those of us who pay our bills through sales, it’s a scary prospect, and for other, the idea of a live human being eliminated from the buying process can be somewhat disconcerting, too.
But, to paraphrase a great American writer, the reports of the end of the human salesperson have been greatly exaggerated. While it’s true that artificial intelligence will replace many time-consuming tasks that salespeople are currently stuck with completing (Spiro’s AI eliminates manual data entry and offers proactive insights and recommendations), there are limits to how effectively AI can replicate the human behavior necessary to close deals.
Here are four reasons why salespeople can won’t be replaced by AI:
1. Because only humans are capable of true empathy
AI can be programmed to respond to questions and to recognize patterns in communication, but it can never learn true empathy, which is a fundamental value in sales. To be able to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and to truly understand what’s driving their thought-process and decision-making requires a human mind, and there’s no robot that can effectively pick up on all the subtleties of human interaction, no matter how much body language training and voice recognition you provide. Humans are truly unique and empathy is one of the biggest reasons why.
2. Because technology can’t answer every question
While technology can answer a huge list of pre-programmed questions, it can’t answer extremely complicated ones, or ones that have a human element. To be even more precise, it’s unlikely that technology will ever be able to understand the implications of certain questions, especially when they have hidden meanings. This ties back to empathy and being clever enough to understand that just because a prospect asks a certain question, doesn’t mean they’re looking for a direct answer. Sometimes, the question merely uncovers the true problem or need, and a machine will be unlikely to pick up on such nuances.
3. Because robots can’t ensure a prospect isn’t bored
Marketing legend David Ogilvy once said: “You cannot bore people into buying your product,” and he was certainly onto something. A machine can feign interest, but can it ever make a prospect feel enthusiasm? There’s a reason why movies, books, and music are almost always about people; humans are social creatures and we strive to talk to, learn about, and listen to other human beings. Once a robot gets introduced into the mix, there’s little to care about except the novelty.
4. Because relationships drive many business decisions
At the end of the day, many business decisions (especially purchases) are driven by relationships. While a machine may have the ability to act friendly and helpful, it’s unlikely to ever build a true bond with a person, which can form the basis for business dealings and long-term relationships. On the flip side, salespeople who act like machines are unlikely to see the same kind of success as salespeople that are skilled at developing trust.