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AI will enhance, not kill off real staff
AI will enhance, not kill off real staff

Improving jewellery sales with technology

As the sales landscape changes, retailers must prepare for the future. One way to do this is to study how technology can assist salespeople, rather than replace them. GRETCHEN GORDON reports.

What will retail be like in 2020? It’s not that far away but retailers are probably more focused on achieving their annual targets to think that far ahead.

Recently, I had the chance to ponder this question when I was approached by Vistage Research to consider what selling would be like over the next two years. They wanted me to provide insights for a book titled: Customer Growth: Decisions for the SMB CEO.

Let’s start with the topic of technology and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in sales. Will it disrupt or enhance sales in the future?

More or fewer salespeople?

In 2015, Forrester Research predicted that one million business-to-business people would lose their jobs in the US by 2020.

This finding draws on the rise of organisations and individuals buying goods and services through online purchases, unaided at all by salespeople.

"I firmly believe that well-skilled salespeople will become more valuable as the use of AI and technology increases in sales"

I am still a firm believer, however, that a growing number of complex and value-added services will require a human to sell them effectively.

Further, there remains a large segment of the population that values the interaction they get with humans.

This could not be truer in retailer categories such as fine jewellery where the touch-and-feel aspect of the product is a crucial aspect of the sales process.

Also fuelling job losses is the relentless pursuit of sales efficiency and effectiveness.

Frequently, this involves some aspect of phone selling instead of live interaction, because the customer prefers the ease of it and the sales organisation benefits from the efficiency and cost savings.

The evolving sales organisation

It was once rare to have ‘inside’ salespeople close business, but it is now common. What does this mean for humans in the future?

With increased advances in AI, smart businesses will use this technology to evaluate the effectiveness of their staff. The efficient and focused sales organisation will leverage AI by reviewing reactions to certain words, phrases and interactions.

It will attempt to use this data to duplicate the sales conversations that work and eliminate the ones that don’t.

AI can enhance salespeople

Sure, a business can streamline further by using voice prompts and AI to engage the customer at the start of any sales dialogue and this can be done without any human involvement; however, it is my opinion that this will only work for low-value services.

For other types of selling, I firmly believe that well-skilled salespeople will become more valuable as the use of AI and technology increases in sales.

Those individuals who are committed to improvement and are adaptable will be valued highest in a future sales world.

They will also benefit the most from the feedback and knowledge that AI can provide because they will strive to adapt their conversation style and phrasing to produce significantly better outcomes.

Salespeople don’t need to be scared that technology may streamline some sales processes. Rather, they should embrace the learning that can come from the increased use of technology.

Technology can help in other ways

AI can be used for more than actual conversational analysis.

There are other technologies to help sales teams to find and qualify leads, stay connected and score new business. I’m intrigued by all of these; however, I am not an expert on them.

If you really want to learn more about the technologies that aid sales, there is no shortage of online resources that discuss it.

One resource I use is www.smartsellingtools. com, where sales and marketing expert Nancy Nardin analyses the latest and greatest selling technologies available.

What to do now

Knowing that the salespeople of the future will need to continuously adapt and grow, it might make sense to get ahead, and hire for that quality now.

The rate of change isn’t slowing down, and 2020 will be here soon.

Retailers who can show future adaptability will go some way towards surviving in the new retail environment.

Gretchen Gordon

Contributor • Braveheart Sales Performance

Gretchen Gordon owns Braveheart Sales Performance, a company helping clients to improve sales. Learn more:

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