Is the role of the average sales rep dead?
Advancements in AI are disrupting many industries, and the world of tech sales is no exception. The role of the average sales rep has been significantly impacted by these advancements, and you could start to argue that the role of a mediocre sales rep is dying if not already dead.
In the past, sales reps were crucial in providing potential customers with information about products or services, addressing their concerns, and closing deals. However, with the rise of AI, many of these tasks can now be automated, leaving sales reps with less to do. The question remains as AI continues to remove the “busy work” from sales - does this mean there will be fewer sales reps, will everyone up their game or will only the best survive?
Looking at the evolution of AI in sales, one of the first ways that AI changed the tech sales landscape was through chatbots. These bots can handle many of the initial interactions with potential customers, answering frequently asked questions and providing basic information about products or services. This means that sales reps no longer need to spend as much time on these tasks and can focus on more complex sales activities.
Chatbots can now qualify leads as they arrive on a landing page and automatically book in a demo with a more senior sales rep without any human interaction. Tools like Intercom & Drift have been doing this for a number of years and now it has become table stakes to have a chatbot on your marketing site.
AI can also help sales reps with lead scoring, which involves determining which potential customers are most likely to make a purchase. By analyzing data such as website behavior and social media activity, AI can identify leads that are most likely to convert and prioritize them for sales reps to follow up with.
This was the second wave of AI I personally witnessed and brought about the introduction of tools like Clearbit & native lead scoring within CRMs like Salesforce & Hubspot.
Another area where AI is making a significant impact is in sales forecasting. By analyzing historical data, AI algorithms can predict future sales trends and provide insights into which what deals are most likely to close and when.
Companies like Clari & People.ai have come along to remove subjective “hopecasting’ by reps and harness AI to provide an accurate sales forecast for technology businesses.
AI has significantly altered sales outreach by enabling sales reps to personalize and bulk send messages at scale. Tools like Salesloft, Outreach & Apollo can automate the process of sending follow-up emails and scheduling meetings. More recently, ChatGPT extensions like Lavender can write a hyper-personalised email or InMail (better than your average BDR) to your target ICP by scraping information about the prospect from public sources.
AI-powered coaching tools can analyze sales reps' conversations with customers and provide insight around talk times & sentiment analysis. Tools like Gong & Chorus.ai paved the way for AI sales training allowing reps to learn by listening back on sales calls rather than the need to shadow live calls.
Recent advancements in large language models pose a massive opportunity for new start-ups in this space (we hope). Not only can reps learn by listening to sales calls, they can now learn by doing real sales calls with AI generated prospects/customers. They can also receive real time feedback and scoring without the need for any manager intervention.
AI Sales Reps:
It may seem left field to believe we will have AI sales reps in the near future. While sales leaders may laugh at this now, I would imagine so did graphic designers at the prospect of being replaced by tools like Midjourney not too long ago.
I believe that AI will continue to remove the busy work in sales by augmenting and automating the earliest stages of the sales cycle. This will mean sales reps will have more time to upskill, train and spend the majority of their time speaking and building relationships with customers.
There is a world where your high velocity sales motion is carried out by AI sales reps and your enterprise motion is carried out by highly trained human sales reps.
In conclusion, AI is changing the tech sales industry, only the best sales reps who continue to train, prioritize building relationships with their customers and take a proactive approach will remain essential. Those who rely on reactive tactics and fail to adapt to the changing landscape will struggle to keep their jobs.
Average will no longer cut it, it is time to become a top performer. You are no longer competing with your peers for promotions, you are also competing with a super intelligent robot that is hot on your heals to take your sales pipeline, quota, commission & job!
Lemmens, B., Clijsters, J., & Streukens, S. (2020). Salespeople or chatbots: Who delivers better service to customers? Journal of Business Research, 108, 228-239. Crampton, S. M., & Wagner, T. (2019). Selling to humans: A conceptual framework for salesperson effectiveness. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 39(1), 5-24. PWC. (2017). AI impact on customer experience. Retrieved from PWC AI study