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When the robots come for us salespeople what will we do?

When the robots come for us salespeople what will we do?

I read this piece the other day, and it really got me thinking.

I was genuinely an early internet pioneer. In the 80’s I had a BBC Micro B+ with 128k of RAM, a floppy disk drive and an acoustic coupler and modem that enabled me to get onto the Prestel network and other what we now term “internet bulletin boards”. I had the internet before 90% of you had a clue what it was.

Back in the day

In my first serious sales job, I was there for over a year before someone so much as put a computer on my desk. Since then I have seen and been at the forefront of amazing change.
So this article and quote from Elon Musk (a hero of mine and I am in the process of enquiring about a Tesla) didn’t surprise me one bit.

He’s basically saying we’re all stuffed and that the robots are going to take our jobs and I, to an extent, am inclined to agree with him.

Truck drivers, train drivers, taxi drivers and other “menial” driving work. Finished. Robots will be able to do that really easily and BETTER than hungover/stupid humans, and it’s going to happen well before the end of my own working career.
Basic construction work. Finished
Starbucks baristas – unnecessary.
Salesmen – not so sure…

The Why

You see, I say I’m not sure. Why?

People that sell stuff that is “low involvement” and price led where the customers have plenty of info about the solution. They are screwed pretty much right now, in fact, since the dawn of time they always have been. Vending machines replaced basic sweet shops and street tobacconists a long time ago.
People who sell stuff that is “high involvement” and service or quality led where the customers need some educating. I think SOME of them might survive. But not all…

Will Never

Whilst computers will become and are already becoming highly emotionally intelligent I think it will be ages before they become EMOTIONALLY intelligent and intuitive about human beings and humanity itself. A computer will never, in essence, know what it is to be human. People like Elon Musk will be able to teach a computer to understand that in a big deal the buyer is under pressure, but the computer will never be able to empathise with that pressure and have experienced it themselves.

A computer will never be a better recruiter because he has just had five bad recruitment experiences whilst trying to hire for his own business and based on that empathy make changes to his business model based on a new and intuitive “insight” into the clients typical business pain.

A computer will never get what the deal really means to the client in anything other than a scripted way or understand the subtle political nuances and agendas of a highly complex buying process.

So I say SOME of us will survive and I am certain of that. The mediocre are stuffed, screwed, knackered. Sell a “me too” product, and you can forget it. Fail to self-develop (particularly around soft skills and people skills), and you will be in the queue for the soup kitchen whilst the robot dishes out the soup.

All knowledge


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