Hi customername: I’m Tomas, Your New Sales Algorithm!


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“Fostering relationships during the sales process will always require the human touch,” Amit Davé wrote in a blog, Don’t Fear the Tech! Four Ways Sales Apps Can Deepen Customer Relationships.

Source: Depositphotos.com

Source: Depositphotos.com

But as my company’s VP of Sales said famously back in 1993, “Any salesperson who doesn’t provide customer value risks being replaced by a kiosk.”

Plasma screens and circuit boards substituting for gregarious salespeople? That’s ridiculous! Selling is way too complicated. Now, if you’ll excuse me just one second, I have to get a snack from the vending machine down the hall.

Now that I’m back, think how far we’ve come in twenty years! Today, that same VP could probably say, “any kiosk that doesn’t provide customer value risks being replaced by a smartphone.” What’s the next wave? A real-estate sales app you can use through a pair of glasses? Don’t laugh.

With more than 7 billion people on the planet, there are too many things that need doing, and apparently, too few people to do them. So as I write this, millions of developers are quietly coding trillions of lines of software to create algorithms to do the work we can’t do, or don’t want to do. And for better or for worse, those algorithms are permeating sales, marketing, and business development.

Maybe invading is a better expression. It’s hard to buy anything without encountering an algorithm. Those in the algorithmic cognoscenti, like LinkedIn’s Director of Relevance Science, Deepak Agarwal, have put a metallic-sounding spin on a trend that already suffers from seeming unappealingly cold:

“In addition, connecting metrics that machines can readily optimize to the overall business goals is also a challenging aspect we continuously work on at LinkedIn. At the end, extracting signal is important, but it is even more important to connect it to the overall business goals. This requires harmony and close collaboration among engineers, scientists and product innovators.”

Translation: lots of everyday activities can be converted into lines of code, and executed fully by a computer. Want to buy business software, auto insurance, or purchase a loan? You can do it today without encountering a human voice, or even a human.

In the process, selling has become de-skilled. According to an August, 2013 article in The New York Times, How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class, as processes are “stripped of their routine technical tasks (brokering stocks, for example), other formerly high-end occupations are becoming accessible to workers with less esoteric technical mastery (for example, the work of the nurse practitioner, who increasingly diagnoses illness and prescribes drugs in lieu of a physician).”

Medicine, insurance, stock trading, sales—no professional occupation is immune. Today, thanks to algorithms, a person can even learn to operate a piece of heavy construction equipment in just a few hours—a task that once required many years of acquired knowledge and know how. “Everybody is trying to make these machines easier to operate because it’s harder and harder to find people” with the required skills, said Frank Manfredi, an industry consultant, in a Wall Street Journal article, Think You Can Drive This Bulldozer?

I’m convinced. If algorithms now make it possible for a novice to operate a 41,000 pound, $432,000 bulldozer, we’re about to experience a tsunami of algorithmic bravado. One company, RelateIQ has heady ambitions to help executives figure out what and who are important. “We wanted to build an algorithm that could do what a highly trained relationship manager, with 20 years of experience, could do,” said Adam Evans, a co-founder of the company, which recently received $29 million in venture capital. “Goodbye, relationship management. Hello, relationship intelligence,” the company says on its website. Amen to that!

Maybe Gartner’s predictions that by 2020, “85 percent of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention,” and “of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left,” won’t be far from the mark. By then, through the aid of algorithms, many sales roles will be filled by people called Associate, or even Summer Intern—lacking experience, rich compensation plans, or Sales in their job titles, but still offering prospects that needed “human touch.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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