Transcending Traditional Sales: How AI Will Impact Your Sales Culture

This AI stuff has me a little on edge lately. I don’t necessarily believe Skynet is going to launch nukes, nor do I believe that Asimov’s laws will ever make it into a legal dictionary. However, I do know that millions of humans — from transport drivers to tax agents — are about to lose their jobs.

In fact, the outlook for hundreds of millions of workers globally is pretty bleak if their employers don’t begin to migrate them to more effective roles and begin thoughtful professional development programs. Who am I kidding, they’ll all be fired. Look at what happened at your favorite fast food chain: Someone figured out you could order a hamburger with an iPad and now cashiers are becoming obsolete.

Anyone who knows me is aware that my skills are deeply rooted in sales. So when I hear Gartner’s prediction that 85% of business interactions will be executed without human intervention by 2020, I wonder: What will happen to all the salespeople? As LinkedIn takes steps closer and closer to proprietary CRM with our data pre-populated in it, I think: Will I need to let my lead development team go?

Admittedly, if I can pay a sum of money to have a CRM that already has your name in it, and for an extra amount per month get the premium package that has your phone number and personal interests, wouldn’t I? Of course I would.

But that doesn’t make my workforce any less valuable. It just alleviates a need to place human capital in one place and allows me to place it somewhere else. There is also a good chance that the “somewhere else” is more valuable and the reason they weren’t there in the first place is because sales was just more critical. I’m speaking from the small business perspective, of course.

Get your sales culture in line.

So the question you have to ask yourself is: Is my sales culture in line with the coming changes? In other words, is your sales team programmed to get the sale, or are they inspired to love the product and show their potential client this? Simon Sinek once said to me (and his 358,000 other Twitter followers), “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Never a truer word spoken.

This will become increasingly important when your sales team starts to fill other roles in your business after LinkedIn’s CRM explodes. Were they a good employee because they were a closer or because they were an asset? One thing is certain: A “jack of all trades” sales expert will become immediately disposable when AI can do their job. During interviews, the line “I can sell anything!” will get a swift response of “We have an app for that” from the hiring manager.

This ambitious undertaking of making sure your sales culture is designed to enhance your sales staff’s capability starts with your managers and works its way down. Actually, it starts with you. You and your sales leaders need to work diligently at becoming thought leaders in your industry. Why? This will insulate you from the coming onslaught of changes we will see in the next 10 years with sales AI and automation.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.Do I qualify?

LinkedIn is a fantastic place to start. It’s commonplace to teach a salesperson how to prospect and sell using social media, but are you training your sales team on how to brand themselves? They need to appeal to their clients even before they reach out to them. In fact, a real sales leader’s brand is so well-built that clients are reaching out to them.