There’s been a whole spate of reports lately about automation. More than 10 million of us in the UK will be replaced by robots by 2030 and around 40% of US jobs are also at risk of automation. You can even find out the likelihood of losing your own job to one of our cyber cousins in this prediction tool. I checked ‘telemarketers’ and discovered a 99% chance of being automated.
It goes on to explain: “The researchers admit that these estimates are rough and likely to be wrong. But consider this a snapshot of what some smart people think the future might look like. If it says your job will likely be replaced by a machine, you’ve been warned.”
Well I don’t feel forewarned at all as the idea is ludicrous. The only way you’ll ever get replaced by a machine in sales is if you’re already behaving like a robot – in which case, it’s your own fault.
There are no magic formulas
For a machine to sell convincingly, there needs to be some kind of formula – but there isn’t. You can’t just feed a machine a stack of algorithms and expect it to fill in the gaps.
To get results, you need to make smart recommendations based on the unique circumstances of every individual. There’s no place for scripts or old school tricks.
Trust needs to be earned
You build trust through human empathy and a machine only gets two options. It can either try to sound empathetic or just stick to gathering facts. Both are far from ideal.
Even after thousands of years, humans haven’t figured out how to fake empathy without sounding sarcastic or disingenuous, so how can we create a robot that sounds convincing?
If it avoids empathy altogether, then it’ll sound scripted. Can you really imagine putting your faith in an advanced cinema ticket line?
Hello robot, are you listening?
Good sales professionals listen and sometimes that means long quiet spells on a call. When you’re talking to a machine, there’s no guarantee that it’s actually ’listening’. You could spend five minutes rattling through your specific situation only to find that it comes back with a pre-determined next question. Frustrating to say the least.
Conversations need to flow
Even one slip-up can send a discussion spiralling into the abyss. Trust is hard to build, but it’s gone in an instant. Back in 2013, Premier Health Plans, an American health insurance company, used a ‘robot’ to simulate telemarketing calls – they called her Samantha West.
The whole episode turned into a bit of a farce, with several journalists spoofing calls to Samantha and tripping her up.
Journalist: “Hey, are you a robot?”
Samantha: “What? No, I am a real person. Maybe we have a bad connection. I’m sorry about that.”
Journalist: “Oh that’s crazy, you sound so much like a robot.”
Samantha: “I am a real person. Maybe we have a bad connection. I’m sorry about that.”
Journalist: “Will you tell me ‘I’m not a robot?’ Just say ‘I’m not a robot, please?”
Samantha: “I am a real person.”
This was made even worse when Time discovered that it wasn’t even fully automated. Operators were pulling the strings behind the scenes to feed it pre-configured answers.
So don’t worry. As we enter a new era of driverless cars, police robots, health automation and drones, there will always be a place for a first-rate human sales team. Not everything can be reduced to ones and zeros – thankfully.