In sales and sales leadership, we all grapple with identifying the optimal use of digital and automated resources for business development. As the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation continues to expand, it offers tremendous opportunity for efficiency and time savings. Does this trend also equate to a diminished role for sales professionals? Will it eventually make human sales representatives obsolete? The short answer is a resounding "no," since the very human functions of building relationships and cultivating personal rapport have yet to be replicated by machines.
In a recent article for the Cincinnati Business Courier, authors Leigh Fox (CEO of Cincinnati Bell) and Neville Pinto (President of the University of Cincinnati) addressed this point very effectively by asking readers to consider how we want technology to influence our humanistic functions and values. "Would we grant a robot's painting pride of place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Would we allow an AI-generated novel to be in the running for a Pulitzer Prize? Would we be less moved by a song if we knew it originated from a virtual composer?"
Human Connections Matter
Viewed from this perspective, it is easy to see how much we value human contribution to the arts. Maybe we can project that logic to better understand how much we appreciate and depend upon human connections in our daily personal and work lives. Even in our texts and emails‚ their value and significance are largely determined by the person at the other end of the exchange. How much do your customers value your insights and contributions to meet their objectives? Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence may be able to enhance the customer relationship, but there will always be higher perceived value if its backed by a human at the wheel providing authority, support and most importantly a connection.
Fox and Pinto used these examples as a catalyst for better questions about the ideal relationship between humanity and technological development, so that "we can be more deliberate in shaping how we want technology to embrace and enhance humanistic values as opposed to exploiting them." As long as human beings are making purchase decisions, sales professionals will play a critical role in that process by developing customer relationships, diagnosing needs and adding unique value via collaboration and insight. As sales professionals, we should be asking how we leverage technology to enhance our sales process and our all-important human contribution.