Making Sales in the Age of Digitalisation and AI


A recent video portrays a parody of why salespeople are naturally skeptical about the bold promise of sales technology. Although the video is funny and it resonates well (+3K reactions, +500 Comments & +235K Views), the reasons for low sales productivity are not funny at all.

Given the significant impact that technology is having on the sales processes and function, we consider in this article the effect of technological changes on the salesperson roles and activities, and knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) expectations.

What Sales digitalisation means for the salesperson?

Traditional sales roles and methodologies (i.e. solution, key account) provide useful labels for the list of actions the salesperson would typically need to perform at different settings. The rationale behind such frameworks considers the nature of such activities and their effect on sales performance.

Sales digitalisation blurs these divides. Successful salespeople have sharpened their ability to simultaneously pursue both farming (i.e. customer retention) and hunting (i.e. customer acquisition). They have developed ambidexterity by acquiring new knowledge and embracing ambiguity.

New knowledge refers to how to retain/hunt, both collectively and as an individual, while ambiguity results from multiple contradictory structures, processes, and cultures in the organisation. Effective salespeople have focused on what they can control and workout their ecosystem (internally & externally) collaboratively.

They have considered the sales process from end-to-end, as a single continuum that starts before acquiring the prospect and extends over the long-term. There are no divides in the customer’s mind (i.e. they research, buy, use, retain, and replace), smart sellers have also taken a comprehensive view of the business, beyond that of the selling.

Active sellers proactively add and remove activities from the selling process, taking into account the latest technologies (i.e. social media interactions, deeper customer understanding). They have also evaluated which tasks (from customer acquisition through retention) could be automated.

Focus on what you can control

As prospects have become active and influential participants in the marketplace (with access to almost infinite information), successful salespeople have freed their time from coding and transmitting market information and concentrated on developing deeper customer interactions.

They have focused on building trust and integrity and aim only to control things which cannot be controlled by the prospect/customer. As customers are leveraging their organisations and peer’s collective knowledge; successful sellers have done the same and tap into their colleagues’ expertise and relationships.

Sales digitalisation is here to stay, and there is substantial evidence that it is having a significant impact on the selling process. Effective sellers have thrived on gaining the knowledge and abilities to work in tandem with these technologies. Salespeople who either over-rely on technology or ignoring it altogether would have little chances of success in the medium to long-term.

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