We may be entering a “new, new era” of selling—an era that takes us back to good old-fashioned relationship selling.
Up to this point many of the tools available to sales teams have encouraged volume-based sales techniques, like mass emailing and cold calling. But as more and more salespeople use these tools, buyers have become inundated with low value communication. Inevitably connection rates and conversion rates have dropped quickly.
At the same time, driven by a softening economy, account executives have been pushed to “self-source” more of their pipeline (60-70% according to Jason Bay.) For many, this means learning new skills and processes—no more relying on a sales development team or their marketing department for all their leads.
This move to “self-source” may continue longer than an economic cycle, driven by the AI wave. AI tools are well-suited to helping Account Executives free up more time to fill their own pipeline and use more effective sales techniques than mass cold calling or emailing—activities most AEs find a way of avoiding anyway!
AI tools are emerging that can help AEs make connections with potential buyers. Given the right data, AI tools can find social connections way more quickly than humans, allowing salespeople to focus their time and energy on the human part of building relationships—the stuff that most AEs thought they would spend their time doing in sales…and actually love doing!
AI can help salespeople conduct better research and find gaps in their thinking in a time-efficient manner. This allows them to approach prospects as a true consultant with value to bring to every conversation. This is the kind of salesperson buyers have been asking for for years. Most salespeople still do not bring enough personalized insight to each buyer—AI tools will give us another chance to achieve this.
Salespeople need to convert themselves to being valued advisors, having a “One Up” mindset as Anthony Iannarino calls it, as low risk transactional deals will move to an e-commerce model where salespeople are not needed. But for more complex high-risk deals with a lot on the line and many stakeholders involved well-informed and skilled salespeople will still be essential.
The rise of AI in sales may bring us full-circle to a new version of the old-fashioned relationship-based selling model. The technology may finally take us away from hiding behind our computers and phones and compel us to start speaking to each other again.
We will use fewer cold approach techniques. The “sales climate may warm” and move us to a sales profession that is more fun for both salespeople and buyers.