Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

‘Why sales must embrace AI – without forgoing the human touch’

By Tony Grout, Chief Product Officer, Showpad

Every decade or so, a technological revolution sweeps through our lives, reshaping behaviours and processes – often leaving an indelible mark on both the personal and professional. We’ve witnessed such transformations with the advent of the internet, web 2.0, and mobile technology. Today, generative AI ushers in a new revolution – that promises to redefine the world of sales and sales enablement.

What generative AI can do – and what it can’t

Even if you’re not familiar with generative AI, by now you’ve probably heard the hype around tools like Bard and ChatGPT. Generative AI refers to large AI models that can create new content, data, or outputs based on the patterns they’ve learned from existing data.

It is generally good at tasks requiring deep expertise in language, broad general knowledge, and limited context; for example, translating, summarising, and copywriting.

However, it can be confidently wrong on tasks that require factual knowledge, or complex reasoning. It should not be confused with a calculator: it is not trained for accuracy; it is trained for confidence. It is subjective, and we should be careful to apply human oversight in situations where objectivity is required.

How AI is already changing buyer expectations

For decades buyers have had information readily accessible to them online – starting with corporate websites and extending to community forums and product review publications. But the rise of generative AI has made it easier for buyers to understand this information. Paired together, the buying experience is changing rapidly and forcing the role of the seller to keep pace.

Sellers can no longer be just a source of information. They must help prospects and customers make sense of information in the context of their business and its specific challenges, which requires more time and effort on the part of the seller.

What AI will do for sales enablement

AI is most powerful when it is used to complete tasks that are hard for humans to do, but easy for humans to verify. From a sales perspective, it is making it easier for buyers to access information to inform their purchasing decisions. Yet, it is also helping sellers add more value during the sales process to build buyer trust and confidence.

AI opens up possibilities for speeding up innovation in our field such as reshaping information discovery and content creation; honing skills that help sellers deliver information in a more effective way; building trust and authenticity with buyers, and delivering powerful insights that anticipate questions buyers will ask.

This is something we are spearheading at Showpad. We are embedding AI throughout our product to help sellers drive better conversations, relieve time-consuming administrative tasks, and empower more effective decision-making.

For example, PitchAI provides sellers with real-time, actionable feedback on recorded sales pitches to help them learn from interactions and improve pitch quality. Additionally, sellers can record a practice pitch and use AI to help sharpen their delivery. AI can also offer feedback on pace, silences, body language, and friendliness – such as how often a seller might smile. It’s even smart enough to capture the nuances of different languages and cultures and how body language and delivery are received behind cultural lines. 

Furthermore, AI-powered search offers expediency, helping to provide relevant context and enriched information fast. This helps make interactions with buyers or prospects far smoother – and avoids the need for small talk while sellers urgently attempt to surface a much needed deck or insight. 

Ultimately, generative AI helps sellers to sell more effectively, with greater credibility and increased consultancy. 

The challenges and complexities of AI

That said, as we embrace the power of AI in sales, it is crucial to be aware of the realities, limitations, and risks associated with this technology. Subjective decision-making, contextual understanding, biases, and governance and compliance issues all demand our attention.

The next evolution of sales requires a delicate balance between artificial intelligence and the human touch. Teams that embrace AI in sales will gain a significant competitive advantage across industries. While AI can be leveraged to boost effectiveness and productivity, and enhance the value of genuine human interaction, it can’t replace it. Empathy, creativity, and human ingenuity are critical sales skills that distinguish exceptional sellers from the rest. The human touch remains a cornerstone of sales, even as AI empowers us to reach greater heights.