By Eric Esfahanian
I was reading an article earlier today where a major bank CEO stated that a large percentage of bank employees will be replaced by robots “eventually.”
This got me thinking about the impact on bankers and the evolution of sales and client outreach in 2017. As CRO of Gryphon, clients often ask me about the role robotics and automation might play in the sales function and in sales jobs. So, when the CEO of a large bank makes a statement like that, I pay close attention to it.
Rise of the Machines
At the risk of stating the obvious, automation will play a large part in the future resource requirements of large firms – and, for many of them, it does today.
Sales isn’t immune to this phenomenon, either. People tend to think because sales requires face-to-face meetings and relationship building, it is less at risk for automation than, say, accounting. Though this may be partially true, companies are spending great amounts of time and money working to push more and more of the traditional sales cycle online so human interactions can take place deeper into the sales funnel.
Customers, too, are helping this along by doing more independent research before engaging with a provider. It’s foolish to think this won’t have a significant impact on staffing requirements. And, when it does, sales jobs will be harder to find and even harder to secure when they are found.
The Solution for Sellers? Get Better Every Day
If ever there was a catalyst to motivate those who truly want to hone their selling skills, the specter of automation and robotics should be about the best.
Sales is a profession many people think they would be good at, but few actually are (similar to lawyers). Our profession is often defined by the worst representatives (the proverbial used car salesman comes to mind). Because of this, sales reps have the responsibility to “make themselves indispensable” through continually taking new risks; educating themselves in the basics of philosophy, sociology, and persuasion; and elevating their profession beyond the lowest sales clichés – with which we are all familiar.
The very best way to protect yourself and your career from being taken over by C-3PO or some self-service e-commerce URL is to invest in your own continuous improvement. Because, quite frankly, if your job performance is so one-dimensional and static that it can be taken over by a robot, it probably should be. Sales is one profession that, when done the right way, could never be replaced with a machine.
In fact, you should view automation as an advantage because it should not be something to fear, but something that can help you be your best. Embrace automation of low-value efforts that waste your time. This will concentrate your mind on truly strategic and important tasks.
Automation is terrific when what you are automating are mindless, repetitive tasks such as CRM updates, bulk email prospecting, and quote creation. Spend your time on meaningful efforts such as outreach to your VIPs, creating and delivering a winning presentation, or negotiating.
Make Your Talent More Scarce than the Sales Job
The answer to the supposed job scarcity coming in sales is fulfilling the “talent scarcity” that has long been a struggle for employers. In fact, it may be the reason firms are turning to robots in the first place. Instead of worrying about being defined and replaced by others, define yourself as one of the very best of your kind.
In the near future, the only thing more scarce than new sales jobs will be truly qualified people to fill them. So, if you make a habit of striving to get better each and every day, you will find yourself with many more sales job offers than you can handle – robots be damned.
For more than 20 years, Eric Esfahanian has been helping clients increase sales and marketing effectiveness with innovative business intelligence technology and processes. As chief revenue officer of Gryphon Networks, Eric is charged with driving the growth of Gryphon’s Fortune 500 client base with cloud-based sales performance management solutions that increase revenue and client retention while reducing training/onboarding times for large, distributed sales organizations. Previously, Eric held sales leadership roles with MicroStrategy, Hewlett-Packard, and EMC Corp. He received his MBA in entrepreneurship from Babson College and his Bachelor’s degree from Boston College.