Sales automation is often touted as the next big thing for sales teams. It promises to increase efficiency, decrease costs, and improve bottom lines. And in transactional sales, it might even eliminate the need for human salespeople altogether.
But in the rush to grab all the benefits of automation, many companies are sabotaging themselves by automating processes that really should never be automated.
Here are four of them.
Automated sales emails, sales proposals, and sales voicemails are all the rage. In some cases, these limited communications can be handled more efficiently by robots than by humans. But when it comes to complex b2b sales, communications can get… well, complex.
According to the authors of “7 Skills That Aren’t About to be Automated” in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year, communication is the top matter that artificial intelligence just plain can’t handle effectively.
“In effective communication, story and fact, rhetoric and science intertwine to enlist the emotions of others to take action on a topic or initiative,” say the authors. “And although efforts have been launched to create robot authors… the ability to communicate compellingly will always be in high demand and hard to automate.”
When your customers are considering making a large and/or disruptive purchase, it’s important that their concerns, questions, obstacles, needs, and emotions be engaged by a trained and effective human salesperson.
Automation can assist the process by suggesting sales collateral, serving up sales training content, and guiding salespeople through the correct sales process, but ultimately the primary communications themselves are best handled by a human.
Business value conversations are a subset of communications, but they bear mentioning separately because they are so critical to the b2b sale, and so often botched even by human salespeople–who sometimes act like robots.
Great salespeople shine at value conversations because they understand the context, business model, competition, and human elements of the customer’s purchasing decision.
The article in HBR puts it this way: “If you are suggesting cost reduction and balance sheet restructuring to GE, where one of the founders of hedge fund Trian Fund Management has a major stake, your pitch has a very different meaning than it would at News Corporation, where Rupert Murdoch still has effective control of the company. This type of contextual understanding shows that you have a knowledge of the dynamics of a business’s position, and is very hard for even the best robots to grok.”
Of course, even most humans are not skilled in understanding and managing context at that level. That’s where automation can be used to assist the human salesperson. For instance, inside Membrain we provide access to DecisionLink, which is a solution designed to help salespeople contextualize value conversations around the customer’s needs.
It walks seller and buyer through a series of questions to help them dig into the value equation and uses the human-generated information to automatically generate value visualizations that are more thorough and compelling than previously possible without technological assistance. But even with DecisionLink, the contextual conversation still requires a human.
Okay, technically this is not a sales “process.” But recognizing the importance of emotion in buying decision making is critical to any sales process.
We all know that buyers, even business buyers, don’t make decisions based purely on logic. Decision-making is always done from the emotions, as amply demonstrated by Antonio Damasio and other researchers.
This is especially true in large, complex deals where multiple stakeholders each have their own reasons for making the decision, and therefore different levels and types of emotional investment. It takes human empathy to understand and respond to the emotional needs of each stakeholder in the process, something that automation cannot possibly do (at least not yet).
“How do you catalyze breakthrough performance in your business?” ask the authors of the HBR article mentioned above. “Start with your people. Identify their gaps in knowledge and skills and work personally with them to fill those gaps. This is something robots will never be able to effectively do.”
As long as you have a need for human salespeople, you will have a need for human managers and coaches. Only a human can understand and empathize with the context, the emotional drivers, and the communication needs of each individual salesperson.
Automation tools such as call recording and intelligent notifications can help coaches to organize and make the most of their coaching time, but ultimately the coaching itself has to be done by a human.
By all means, I encourage organizations to take a look at how automation can help their teams be more efficient and effective. Membrain helps by automatically suggesting content in context, making it easy to build process and methodology into the salesperson’s workflow, automating sales analytics, and automatically flagging opportunities that need particular kinds of attention.
But as long as buyers are human, complex sales will always require real people to manage the uniquely human elements of the process.
Want to see how Membrain helps real humans achieve superhuman sales results? Contact us and let’s talk.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
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