• June 26, 2023

Sales Leaders Need to Position Technology as a Teammate Rather Than a Tool

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Sales organizations that actively position technology as sellers’ teammate rather than just another tool will unlock seller productivity and enable high-quality deals, Gartner senior director analyst Robert Blaisdell said during the opening keynote at the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference in Las Vegas in mid-May.

Technology—particularly artificial intelligence—is key in augmenting the unique value that human sellers provide to buyers in a continuously disruptive environment, he said.

“A new approach that marries technology advances with the distinctive abilities that human sellers bring to a deal is required to adapt to customers’ changing needs and drive real commercial outcomes,” Blaisdell said. “The tech revolution isn’t about giving sellers more technology; it’s about giving technology more responsibility.

“New technologies, such as generative AI and digital humans, have the potential to transform the role of the seller. Sales leaders will need to rethink how to meet buyers’ inflated digital expectations. Those who don’t risk distancing themselves from buyers and leaving real money on the table.”

While sellers are often the CSO’s most obvious option to help buyers through dysfunction to reach their goals, they’re also the most expensive, Blaisdell said. The tight labor market, administrative burden of overinvesting in the wrong technologies, and the persistent skills gap renders this approach ineffective.

Organizations can finally move beyond simple automation and assisted selling to true augmented selling, where technology plays an active role in the design and execution of the sales process. As technology becomes fully embedded over time, sellers can lean on technology as their teammate to delegate tasks associated with lead generation or basic customer interactions, he said.

Generative AI in particular has the power to automatically generate and personalize sales content based on the customer and their current needs, with sellers only needing to view the output.

While many buyers say they prefer a rep-free experience, this is at odds with what makes for a high-quality deal. Buyers who receive validation that a purchase feels right for them are 30 percent more likely to complete an ambitious or premium purchase that lived up to expectations. Gartner calls this “value affirmation,” and buyers that engage with a human during the purchase are 2.3 times more likely to experience it.

“Value affirmation’s importance in enabling high-quality deals highlights how feelings matter just as much as facts for today’s B2B buyers,” said Alice Walmesley, director of advisory in the Gartner Sales Practice.

The best sellers, she said, can intuitively infer buyers’ unspoken beliefs, feelings, and intentions to predict and influence behavior. Technology frees up sellers’ time so they can better catch these innately human feelings.

“CSOs can coach core performers accordingly and ensure technology unlocks their sellers’ potential to be more human than ever. Progressive sales organizations are shifting their mind-sets from a technology vs. human approach to a technology and human approach, where each entity brings out the best in one another to complete high-quality deals,” Walmesley concluded.

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