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Automation and artificial intelligence instead of salespeople and consultants – what impact do digitization, outsourcing and sales automation really have on the future role of salespeople in the B2B sector?
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Man or machine – is that really the question? Automation and artificial intelligence are being used more and more in B2B sales. This can relieve the workload, but at the same time, with the ever-increasing wave of automation tools, salespeople and consultants are also worried about their own importance for sales.

Digital technologies are constantly changing the markets and requirements in all areas of work, including B2B sales. Customers can obtain comprehensive information about a company, its products and services, and the competition at any time. This means that customers have usually already made a decision before they have even made actual contact with the company or sales representative.  

With the help of online shops or chatbots, digital touchpoints for customers can be created that are independent of time. Depending on the interpretation and vision of the future, there are fears that digital technologies and especially artificial intelligence can replace a contact person - the salesperson. But how much truth is there really behind this view? 

Advantages of automated processes and artificial intelligence

Automation, automated processes or artificial intelligence: the advantages of such technologies are manifold and are increasingly having a fundamental impact on the everyday working lives of many people. 

Machines and programs are designed to process and analyze large amounts of data. If a company has a large customer base or an extensive product range, this data can be processed more easily, quickly and efficiently. Calculations of, for example, the probability of a deal being closed can be outsourced and calculated continuously without being prone to errors - an advantage that machines have over humans.  

If the same tasks are repeated over and over again, they can ideally be automated. Research tasks as well as the preparation and follow-up of business appointments can be carried out using online tools or artificial intelligence. Simple, but time-consuming and routine tasks are no longer the responsibility of the sales person themselves.  

Many types of tasks can be completed faster, more accurately and more efficiently using artificial intelligence. AI can initially learn new tasks through mistakes and its own attempts, rather than waiting for specific instructions and feedback from (human) employees.

At a glance: the benefits of AI and automation

  • Routine tasks and processes can be automated to save time. 
  • Machines are available 24/7, people are not.
  • Customers can configure the product themselves in advance on a comprehensive platform and then discuss or optimize it with a sales representative. 
  • AI can learn from data and improve over time. 
  • Complex processes are understood and processed more quickly. 
  • AI can provide comprehensive insights that humans need more time to gain and are more prone to errors.

This summarizes just a few of the benefits that automation and the use of artificial intelligence can bring to sales. So at what point does it become important for sales to use these technologies? Where are the limits of humans?

Limits of human intelligence

In contrast to artificial intelligence, human intelligence includes areas such as independent thinking, learning and reasoning. This shows the ability to make one's own decisions based on information and one's own understanding. Complex issues can therefore be processed in a different way that machines cannot. 

But human intelligence, including its thinking and problem-solving abilities, also reaches certain limits that are part of the overall construct of “human beings”.  

When dealing with complex tasks, human intelligence can be prone to errors, overlooking things or understanding and interpreting them differently than the actual situation suggests. After all, humans have only a limited memory and limited self-control and attention span, which leads to a limited amount of information processing in a given period of time. 

The human memory can also recall experiences within thought and problem-solving processes and recall them accordingly. This can lead to distortions or biases in certain situations in which a decision is not based on logic or reason.  

All of these points would suggest that artificial intelligence and automation are the solution to this problem. But in many respects, people, and also salespeople in B2B, will continue to play an important role.

Where can the machine not replace the salesperson?

Both artificial intelligence and machines rely on data being made available to them, which they then process and evaluate. However, humans also have skills that go beyond pure data processing and are particularly important in areas of customer contact. 

Man has:

  • empathy 
  • Ability to innovate 
  • Problem-solving ability 
  • creativity 
  • Communication skills 
  • Reflexes 
  • memory and 
  • Persuasiveness

All of these skills are essential, but cannot be covered by automation tools or artificial intelligence. The personality of the salesperson is particularly important when it comes to products that require explanation in B2B sales. Only they can conduct personal conversations and provide individual advice, interpret body language and emotions, or filter out hidden motives within the conversation. 

Unlike machines, humans can improvise, be creative, demonstrate critical thinking and thus think and argue more far-sightedly about problems and solutions. Humans, on the other hand, have to ask AI the right, specific questions in order to get a profitable answer.

It turns out that although AI and machines can be used in many areas, they cannot fully replicate or replicate the skills of humans. However, these skills are essential, especially in customer contact within sales.

Conclusion

In many areas and opinions, there is talk that artificial intelligence and automation will lead to problems and job losses. However, especially with regard to sales automation, the aim is to maximize the time the salesperson spends with and for the customer. Faster and more efficient processes are implemented in order to reduce follow-up costs and maximize benefits. 

In the future, sales will need both the salespeople themselves and the machines and digital technologies that support them in their work. Digitalization means being able to implement and use faster processes, while automation gives salespeople more time for more important customer-related issues. 

There should therefore be no fear regarding the application of sales automation or artificial intelligence, but rather open communication throughout the company's team about the possibilities and opportunities. 

This means that recurring tasks can be outsourced and automated so that machines can complete them more quickly. This gives the salesperson more capacity for other areas for which they are better suited in terms of their human intelligence, i.e. intuition, empathy and other (human) strengths.

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