By Praveen Kesarkar, VP, Shiksha
McKinsey Global Institute says that about 45 percent of the jobs that people do today can be automated through technology. When we hear of automation we think about low skill, low wage jobs getting automated, but McKinsey in its report suggest that even a CEO is not immune, large part of their job can be automated. However many sales leaders are of the opinion that sales job are little more complex for technology to take over and also point out, that’s the historic reason that even after most departments have seen many changes in an organisation, sales as such hasn’t been intervened. Let’s look at it in a nutshell as to what’s happening around with respect to sales/sales processes and what is the future of sales looking like.
First and foremost prediction is that all primary jobs of sales personnel will be taken over by artificial intelligence. Sales processes seem to be at the brink of disruption, technology interference will force sales teams to adapt and evolve businesses in many different ways. To elaborate a bit, let’s look at few primary activities done by sales teams daily (a) To find out individuals/enterprise who are relevant for you in the market (b) Analyse which one of them is most likely to buy your product (c) Start engaging with those who fit into your parameters through phone or email communication. Artificial Intelligence today is able to solve most of these time consuming jobs of a sales force more accurately without much human intervention. Companies like US based lead genius and many others are doing admirable job in this space. This does not mean sales jobs will dwindle; it only means the way sales teams use to function is going to change dramatically.
Sales team will be driven more and more by Data/Analytics – Looking at the VC funding which is going around in this space and the kind of investors doing these funding evokes curiosity. For the year 2015 in US alone there has been over $1.2 billion in funding and closer home, start-ups like the Bangalore Based Vymo and Chennai based Freshdesk together have raised funds of over $90million in the last year or two from investors like Tiger global, Google Capital, Sequoia, Accel Partners and others.
Gartner defines, sales analytics is a tool to identifying/predicting sales trends and its outcomes, in the process helping sales leaders to understand where and what their sales force should be doing. Many sales leaders may point out that they already are doing this stuff but most likely at the granular level understanding of this is little hazy. Let’s look at for example analytics/ metrics /data all same? Probably not. It’s important for sales leaders to look at these in segments – metrics are simple measurement standards (like number of customer interaction in a day, target vs achievement etc and analytics is the analysis of those metrics which can give us more relevant/meaningful insights, while doing so, it throws up predictive analytics (insights based on historical data) and adaptive analytics (real time data). Combination of these data will give a clear road map and ammunition to sales force. However, the information derived from these analytical tools is only half the story, most importantly sales leaders are expected to derive a meaningful insights relevant to their industry and chart a clear road map for their teams using this rich information. Sales leaders have to dive deeper in studying these reports if they have to stay relevant and coach their foot soldiers. Sales leaders have much different role to play in the times to come to be successful.
Hybrid sales teams –Like every other profession today, people in sales profession are expected to renew themselves. A multi skillset is what is looked at in a sales professional today. Like for example, IT folks and product heads (in online space), they are expected to be meeting customers to understand them and communicate with them in order to sell their offerings. Similarly sales people are expected to have better understanding of IT part of the product. Every industry is demanding a deeper knowledge base from their sales teams. This is happening more due to the fact that customers/buyers are evolving much faster. A customer/buyer today doesn’t want a sales person to tell him the pitch of a product, which he is now doing himself at a click of a button. Customers today want experts who can facilitate, who can give knowledgeable insights. Gone are the days where sales people could muster their influence based on the relationship/rapport they enjoy with a buyer. Yes rapport/relationship is still very relevant but unless a sales person isn’t adapting to a consultative approach of sales, sooner or later things starts looking difficult.
With all this happening many companies around are revising the compensation structure for their sales force. It’s not only about target vs achievement, companies are coming with plans to reward their sales force for this new behaviour/skill sets. Just like automation/robotics have changed manufacturing industry, technology changing transportation industry, with more and more industries embracing digital, data analytics, machine learning and automation, surely one can guess where the sales organisations are heading towards. Face of sales will surely not look similar in times to come by.