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AI versus humans: what the future holds for sales

Picture of Corinne Thomas

Corinne Thomas

Founder & Managing Director

Whether you love it or loathe it, AI is here to stay.

AI’s current and future role in sales is one of the most talked-about topics in our sales community.

Our Founder, Corinne Thomas, asked her LinkedIn network what they thought about AI and its potential impact on sales roles. The results are extremely interesting – 25% said they were unsure or apprehensive about the impact of AI on their role, whereas 75% felt excited about what could be achieved.

Joining the AI debate

It felt like a timely moment to enter into the debate about ‘AI versus humans’ with the support of three sales experts representing various industries including fintech and social selling.

Our experts bring their own rich experiences and opinions on the use of AI in their roles as sales leaders: Donna Owen, VP of Revenue at pawaPay; Dean Seddon, CEO of Maverrik; and Olly Knowles, sales and development director at Scribeless.

From the best AI tools to integrating AI into sales strategy, read on for an executive summary of the debate, including an outline of the latest emerging technology and how it can be harnessed effectively for ethical sales leaders.

If you’d like to access the full 1-hour debate, plus many more hours of sales training, please register your interest to join the Ethical Sales Academy, our membership community for like-minded salespeople.

The top opportunities AI can give your business

The sheer speed and scope of AI means it has significant value when used in areas such as ICP to help map personas and learn about pain points. It can also make list building and spreadsheet creation incredibly quick, and aid with initial research for sales prospects.

And when used with care, AI can be helpful in engaging prospects on social platforms such as LinkedIn, which in turn can then lead to better response rates when followed up with a phone call or email.

Tools such as ChatGPT are extremely effective for prompts and questions. They can be used to open up areas you may not have necessarily considered before or that weren’t on your radar. AI can also help with accuracy in areas such as grammar or reporting.

“We used to say ‘We’re only human’ – well, we’re not any more. We have this amazing assistant following us around, so use it to make yourself better.” 

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2. Knowing where to use AI in your sales process – and where not to

As salespeople, we have a unique set of skills that make us excellent at our job – networking, building connections, developing relationships, and positively influencing people. And while AI continues to improve, especially in the areas listed above, it doesn’t have these uniquely human sales superpowers.

Even as AI continues to improve, these human skills need to be nurtured and not replaced by a machine. In fact, using AI in these situations is bound to misfire.

“If I was making a £200k purchase and thought I had a bot running the sale, I wouldn’t feel bad about ghosting that company,” says Donna Owen.

AI is also not effective – yet – when it comes to copywriting. At the moment it’s usually obvious when AI has been used to write an email sequence or LinkedIn post, with clunky language and the wrong tone of voice, none of which will land well with prospects.

Using AI for copywriting can also lead to issues with authenticity. Because of its limitations, your AI-written comms may well come across in one way (described by Dean as a “hyper-excitable 22-year-old from California”), which could jar with your real-life persona when you connect with your prospect – and lead them to feel you’re not genuine.

So while AI is a useful addition to the areas of sales listed above, ensuring your sales team has classic selling skills is still vital, such as how to write effectively. If the building blocks of the ‘old-school’ method are in place, AI can be used in tandem with these to improve efficiency, but these classic skills can’t be neglected in favour of newer tech.

“I’m cautious when training younger people that they might rely on AI to write a blog post or a write a sequence, and this is taking away their critical and lateral thinking,” advises Olly. “By going back to the basics and knowing how to write properly, then and only then can you use AI. Otherwise, you’re just going to scale terrible stuff. People just want the shortcuts, which is natural, but the risk here is that taking the shortcut means you’re not doing the learning.”

“The superpower is you being you and mastering these tools, not the other way around,” adds Dean Seddon, Founder of Maverrik.

3. Taking AI forward in your sales role

When our human ability to create relationships and interact with people is combined with AI’s astonishingly fast data capabilities, that’s where we can find the sweet spot.

“Use your sales skills, then sprinkle the AI over the top to get the two of them working together,” says Donna. “It’s not an either/or, you can find a blend.”

Just as previous advances in tech such as email and cloud-based software have freed us up from more mundane tasks, one huge benefit of using AI for more admin-based sales tasks is that you can use this free time to engage in more meaningful work.

“I see AI as giving us time to expand human nature in better ways,” asserts Oliver Knowles.

And that’s a very exciting prospect.

“Use AI to build the lists, do the forecasting, do the grunt work, so we can be beautiful creatures and have conversations with people. That’s our ultimate job as salespeople – to have conversations with people.”

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4. AI tools that can help your sales process

Want to experiment with AI’s possibilities? Our experts and our community hive-mind suggested the following tools:

  • Crystal Knows  – insightful personality data to select the right tone of voice to use for prospects
  • Commenter.ai – helps you write comments for social platforms to help interact with people
  • Clay – a list-building tool that builds a bespoke outreach campaign
  • Fathom – for annotation and note-taking
  • Loom – instantly add captions and summaries to your videos
  • Outplay – powerful sales engagement software
  • Cognism – provides email and phone data for list building
  • Clari  – an enterprise revenue platform that can be used for forecasting