Technology has enabled significant innovations within the sales industry. Sales automation is a ringleader in those developments, ranging from cloud-based platforms that cue you into new leads, to plugins that can take care of the nitty-gritty for SDRs. But the pro-technology conversation on sales processes hits a speed bump when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI). What if it starts to replace humans instead of serving them? We’re not talking about a full-scale robot takeover that kicks off the apocalypse–although people can act like this is the case at the suggestion that they’ll get the boot. We all agree that technology is great when helping us do our job. When it’s replacing us, we’re less keen on it.
Recent advances in AI-powered technology have made this question less of a hypothetical debate and more of an unfolding reality. The truth is that there are some things that AI is better at doing than humans, and conversely, there are some functions that AI will never be able to replace. As Jamison Pence, former Director of Sales Development at LeadIQ, points out when he quotes Max Altschuler, “Until robots are buying from robots, salespeople have a job.” Here’s how AI will help SDRs, as well as change the job role, and what leadership can do to support the transition.
Historically, technology has enabled sales teams to take giant steps forward. Algorithms allow SDRs to find the right prospects and lead them to the best research. Analytics provide data-driven insights that help sales teams create winning strategies. It only makes sense that AI – the next big thing in tech – is the next step. It can help sales teams improve their outreach by doing two types of jobs:
AI accomplishes both of these jobs by automating key tasks, giving SDRs more time to focus on other high-value activities. Here are a few examples of specific areas where AI can be of service:
The payoff for these use cases is real. A McKinsey study found that companies that use AI in sales have seen an increase in leads and appointments of over 50 percent, cost reductions of 40-60 percent, and call time reductions of 60-70 percent. To add icing to the cake, McKinsey also found that current technologies can automate 40% of sales work activities. With results like that, it’s no wonder more companies want to get in on the action. While AI will impact the entire sales team, SDRs will experience the biggest changes–at least at first. So what does that mean for them?
AI will definitely change the job role of SDRs. But that’s not a bad thing–change is not just the only constant, it’s the engine of reinvention. We can start to say goodbye to training SDRs in low-level tasks that result in high levels of burnout and quick turnovers and hello to SDRs that invest their energy in doing what humans are programmed to do: connect to other humans.
Here’s a before and after comparison of how that change might look. It takes at least one month to onboard SDRs, with some industry experts arguing that it takes 90 days for proficiency in the role. Most SDRs hit targets after 3-6 months and move on after just 18 months. Sometimes they’re promoted or move to a new company; other times, they decide to retire from sales altogether due to the challenging nature of the role. Either way, the short-lived cycle means that companies are scouting, training, and hiring new recruits on a near-constant basis.
With AI in the mix assisting sales teams, two changes occur. Teams are expending less energy on the onboarding and training cycle, and SDRs can refocus their efforts on selling. A recent Salesforce study found that only 34% of a sales professional's time is spent selling. Given back time in their day, SDRs can hone their skill sets towards building relationships, having quality conversations, getting creative, and other activities that are the backbone of a good sales outreach and are inimitable by AI. The benefits of these changes are plentiful, impactful, and include:
The result of these benefits is lower turnover rates, higher productivity and on-the-job satisfaction, and a position that is less about the grind and more about returning SDRs to the job’s original purpose: humans selling to humans.
Leadership can support this transition with a strong change management strategy that is based on the following tenets:
Another important fact to keep in mind with AI is that it’s a gradual process of integration. Sales teams don’t need to have all the answers on how it will impact them; they can start small–one tool, one use case at a time–and grow from there. LeadIQ, for example, has just introduced a new patented AI technology that allows reps to send tailored, personalized sales messages at scale.
Our new Compose capability allows sales reps to stand out with truly personalized cold outreach. Our AI connects eye-catching intros to the pain point you solve – all unique and personalized to each prospect. These capabilities allow for personalization at scale, faster onboarding, and more responses. With more response rates–and more energy to handle them–SDRs can hone their sales acumen and evolve with the challenges of the times we’re in.