Technology has changed some of our most cherished business traditions. Less work is done on the golf course and fewer business lunches turn into raucous parties. The American way of business has been forced to conform to a faster pace and a more disconnected workforce.
But the changes have created a new and interesting business culture. For one thing, the uniform of the office is more casual, there is more diversity of talent, and we are creating new legends for young professionals to emulate. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the sales department.
Two decades ago when customer relationship management (CRM) technology first hit the sales department, few could have imagined that in such a short period of time it would so radically change what we know sales to be. Now, a salesperson is also a data analyst, marketer, and part cyborg – because what is a salesperson without their smartphone? This is especially evident among Millennials.
“Millennials have grown up used to working with large volumes of information, which makes them more capable of data analysis, and drawing conclusions from large libraries of information,” writes Larry Alton in Forbes. “In a field like sales, where performance depends on the skillful interpretation of existing data sets, this makes millennials indispensable.
We have artificial intelligence to thank (or blame) for many of these changes. CRM technology by itself is little more than a hub for organization and some basic reporting. But when deep learning is applied to the wealth of data the CRM captures, and AI is leveraged to surface the resulting intelligence, a sales organization takes a leap forward.
Hidden in the data are patterns and trends invisible to the human eye. These discoveries, when surfaced and given to a salesperson, make the salesperson prescient – able to act not just on instinct but on probability as well.
“Today, sales organizations still need “The Closer”, individuals who doggedly pursue deals,” says Uzi Shmilovici, founder and CEO of Base CRM, an AI powered CRM system. “But that characteristic is competing with others that are actually more relevant today. The salesperson who succeeds today is a sales scientist, an individual who can plan meticulous campaigns in a digital context to drive large volumes of deals to close.”
The difference between today’s top performing sales professionals and those from two decades ago is the ability to partner with intelligent computer systems, rely on data, and find innovative ways to leverage technology. Because clients are most easily reached digitally, that means real creativity needs to be applied to the challenge of bringing deals to close without face-to-face interactions – and increasingly, without phone calls.
All of this demands a new breed of sales professional. The caricature of years gone by is of a headstrong, outspoken American businessman who works miracles and closes big deals. That caricature is outdated and unhelpful in symbolizing to young professionals the body of skills a salesperson needs to succeed.
Today, the highest performing sales reps are scientists – they combine people skills with computer skills and analytical abilities. And organizations that are able to properly equip them are reaping the benefits.
“Sales organizations are changing rapidly as the result of AI,” Shmilovici says. “They are hiring a different kind of salesperson, adding roles for sales scientists in their operations, and integrating with other aspects of the business more closely. All of these changes are improving results, which is what sales are all about.”
The new era of sales reflects a largely remade economy. Very little is the same as twenty years ago, including what consumers want and the technology they use to find it. But this new economy and business culture are finding new heroes worth celebrating – including the sales scientist.