With so much written about robotics, automation and digital disruption, do you ever feel afraid of being left out because you’re afraid of being left behind?
As we continue to witness rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence and automation, the real challenge of how we, as individuals, can add more value is a pressing matter in the world of technology sales.
As sales professionals, complacency and relying on the status quo is creating a very real fear of being left behind in our careers by our competitors, our industry and even in our own company.
As a recruitment professional assisting some of the largest technology companies across Australia, it has become my core job to uncover the sales people of the future.
I am seeing a stronger focus for finding people who actively embrace the constant change that comes with rapid disruption, while keeping a focus on the important human elements that makes sales people successful.
It would be easy to think that because sales requires the creative and social interaction, that has yet to be matched by machines, we are safe.
While able to beat a master in the ancient Chinese game of Go, IBM’s super computer, Watson, still hasn’t reached the point of establishing rapport and building relationships, engagement, connectivity and trusted advisory that people rely on to make purchasing decisions.
While this may be true now, the reality is that we may be approaching crunch time. And soon.
In January this year, the Harvard Business Review published an article on how to prevent becoming obsolete. This article should be compulsory reading not just for every sales professional, but for every worker who is concerned about how they can adapt their thinking to remain relevant in this fast changing environment.
A recent survey by Oxford Economics found employees’ top concern is that their position might change or become obsolete. Half believe their current skills won’t be needed in three years. The fear has spread beyond those on the frontline, as a study by Adobe found that 40 per cent of executives feel the need to reinvent themselves. What’s more, only 14 per cent felt they knew how.
Gartner predicts that one-third of jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025.
Yes, these statistics are a generalisation across the broader workforce, but to say it won’t affect sales professionals is naïve.
So how do we respond and what do sales professionals need to know?
In times of transformative change, it is not just our skills, tools, and practices that become obsolete. More fundamentally, our mental models become outdated, rendering them ineffective, misleading, or outright dangerous.
Mental models are the (largely unconscious) ways we make sense of the world around us. These models are like mental habits. And habits don’t change overnight. Change requires both learning and unlearning. The process is less like a teenager learning to drive, and more like a tourist in London trying to drive on the opposite side of the road.
Fortunately, we are not destined to become extinct in the workplace. It is not us as individuals who may become obsolete; it is our mental models.
Our whole approach to learning and development needs to change at a fundamental level. And how do we set about doing this?
They say we should create two savings accounts for the future. One account will be our traditional retirement savings account and most people have this under way.
The other account, almost no one has, it is our reinvention account. The money we put aside each pay check to ensure that we have sufficient funds to pay for our own training and development.
We might also need to ensure that this account is deep enough to provide for a year or two of living expenses to cover the eventuality that we need to take some time out to study full time.
As someone who speaks every day to sales professionals looking for the secret to succeeding in the future, this to me is the obvious first step.
To stay doing what you have been doing for the past decade and expect to continue doing so is not smart or sustainable.
What is smart is planning for the future and the first step is developing a learning fund that supports your constant thirst for adapting and learning new mental models.
By undertaking this first step, you will be on your way to not only surviving the future world of work, but thriving.