“Her” is a 2013 film about a lonely writer named Theodore Twombly, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, who develops a romantic relationship with an AI on his phone named Samantha, (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The film predates the “coming out” of ChatGPT by a decade but surfaces some of the behavior that apparently is already happening on certain online dating sites.
In our more mundane, but still relationship-centric, world of sales, how far will buyers go with replacing relationships with humans with relationships with AI? My guess, for the foreseeable future, is not that far—at least when it comes to large purchases.
I believe AI will play the role of sales assistant not sales lead when it comes to important buying decisions.
I want a human to stand behind the promises made by any organization when I am making a large purchase. I’m fine buying a power tool from Amazon with no help, but when my two daughters are going over their financial aid for college, I am very sure I want to discuss this with another human being. I want the other person to understand my situation and then develop a solution together. I want to trust that the other person has good intentions and cares about my outcome.
As Jiarui Wang points out in his article below AI “lacks a theory of mind, or the ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling. Whether predictive models will ever develop theory of mind is unclear, and even if it is possible, getting there will take a very long time.” It’s not easy to trust something that does not understand what I am thinking or feeling.
McKinsey interviewed the authors of a new sales book called the Unsold Mindset. One of the key points in the book is that the most successful salespeople are socially aware. The authors say of these salespeople “They can realize mid-sentence that they said something, and it didn’t land—they’re present and capable of changing that narrative in real time. They’re not these extroverts who are so self-confident, but they are self-aware.” No evidence that AI can do this, unless you tell it explicitly you did not like it’s answer.
In the Linkedin article below Lisa Earle McLeod, founder of McLeod & More and author of Selling with Noble Purpose, asks her prospects how adopting a new solution would affect them personally. “This question needs to come from a place of authentic curiosity and caring. It’s not a rote, let me act like I care question. When you ask it from a place of caring, you forge a stronger authentic connection with your customer.” The fact is AI does not care.
If you are buying something important, are you going to put your trust in an AI? It was pretty challenging for Joaquin Phoenix in 2013. I’m not sure it is that much easier in 2023.
Generative AI Could Free Us to Be More Human, but Do We Want That?
Some great information here about dating AI on the Internet—not one, but two examples. What applies to dating may apply to sales soon. The author notes, “The fact of the matter is building and managing relationships, romantic or otherwise, is hard. Humans may be much better at it than machines, but that doesn’t mean it’s absolutely easy for us.”
Author Talks: How the most successful salespeople defy stereotypes
Just take a look at the photo of the authors featured in this McKinsey interview and you will wonder how they could possibly be replaced by an AI. One of my favorite quotes “Give yourself permission to be authentic and be aware that the world will give you credit for your flaws.”
How to Build Trust, According to a Leading Business School Professor
The article includes a good Warren Buffet quote “Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, no one really notices; when it’s absent, everyone notices.” Some practical tips on building trust in this article.