It’s no secret that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to change the way we sales professionals work. Sales, as both a function and a profession, is no exception to the AI sea change. The real question isn’t whether sales teams will adopt AI, but how and to what extent.
As a sales professional, it was easy to realize that AI was the future, which led to me joining Cien, a Barcelona based company at the confluence of AI and Sales.
This summer, the team at Cien surveyed B2B sales professionals around the world and compiled their views in a study on the future of sales and AI.
TL;DR: Artificial Intelligence in Sales is an Opportunity, Not a Threat
The study’s main conclusion is that, regardless of whether you’re a team leader or not, sales professionals overwhelming see Artificial Intelligence as an opportunity, not a threat.
The introduction of AI is expected to trigger greater levels of automation for sales reps and improve visibility for sales leaders.
In this post I’ll be sharing how B2B sales professionals’ perceptions of AI are vastly different depending on the size of the company they work for, the type of technology they use, or the position they hold on the team.
AI Will Make Sales Easier
We’ve all heard doomsday predictions explaining how AI powered chatbots meant the end of many customer facing professions, and there are plenty of reasons to believe so.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, nearly half a sales person’s time is spent on activities that can be automated with technology.
However, Cien’s study suggests that sales professionals do not see AI as a threat to their jobs.
88% of sales professionals we surveyed believe AI will make their jobs easier, while only 6% felt that AI will make their jobs harder or put them out of work altogether.
Interestingly, sales professionals surveyed seem to share the same confident attitude towards AI regardless of rank, gender, or age.
The Bigger Your Employer, The More Threatened You Feel By AI
While an overwhelming majority of B2B sales professionals seem to welcome introducing AI–based technology into their workplace, we noted big differences in their perception when taking into account their rank and the technologies they use.
For instance, sales professionals who work at companies with more than 250 sales people are three times more likely to think that AI will put them out of work in ten years’ time.
To me, it’s unclear whether this is because sales professionals in large companies perform more repetitive tasks or whether they expect larger companies to use AI differently than smaller ones.
The Future is Bright for Salesforce Users
Another interesting data point that emerged from the survey is that sales professionals that use Salesforce tend to be more relaxed about their future with regards to AI. When controlling for factors such as company size, age, and rank, Salesforce users are half as likely to think that AI will put them out of work.
Sales leaders are more likely to see AI as a source of added complexity.
While both leaders and reps actually believe AI will make their jobs easier, the leaders tend to have a different view on AI.
31% of sales leaders see AI as a source of added complexity – a significantly higher rate than sales reps.
It’s All About Maximizing Productivity
Whether AI is seen as a time saver, personal coach, or crystal ball, AI is expected to have a positive impact on team productivity and effectiveness.
66% of respondents identified sales productivity as offering the biggest upside for improving the quality of their jobs; among Salesforce users, this number jumped to 71%.
In summary, the B2B Sales community’s attitude towards AI appears to be shifting towards one of greater acceptance. More than a threat, an overwhelming majority of sales professionals see AI as an opportunity for improved effectiveness and higher productivity.
88% of sales professionals believe AI will make their jobs easier within the next 10 years
Sales teams that don’t run on Salesforce are twice as likely to believe AI will put them out of work
Sales leaders are more likely than sales reps to view AI as a source of added complexity
About the Study
This study was conducted by Cien, makers of the AI-powered sales productivity app.
Respondents were polled between June 1st, 2017 and July 1st, 2017. The full version of the study is available at: www.cien.ai/study-future-of-sales-and-ai/