We don’t have to travel very far back in time to learn how marketers exaggerate conditions to enhance the selling environment for their own products.
You only have to travel back as far as 2009 to learn that cold calling was dead. Yet, in 2018, I read a dozen or so articles reinforcing the falsehood about the death of cold calling. If you want to differentiate from other salespeople, make cold calls! Hardly anyone is doing it and it’s not because it’s dead. Salespeople are avoiding the phone like the plague because there are other options and they are busy following up on crappy leads. More on that in a moment.
We learned that the Internet would replace all salespeople. While that is true for products like airline tickets, hotel rooms, low-priced subscriptions and anything you can buy on Amazon, most B2B products and services still require some of the 16 million US based salespeople to generate sales.
Then we began to hear that Social Media, which would later be referred to as Social Selling, would be the new way to sell. Shortly after that, it was proclaimed that Inbound would be King and replace all salespeople. Inbound has made good on the promise of delivering leads, however, as I mentioned above, most of the leads absolutely suck. Interestingly, Hubspot, arguably the first inbound company, has a large sales force selling, well, inbound services.
Recently the video production and platform companies have been telling us that video is the key to doing business so if you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that there is now a non-stop stream of brand new and recycled videos appearing in your Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.
The reality is that when these tools and platforms were in their infancies, they all helped salespeople to get found, differentiate and provide additional ways to reach, lure, interact with and schedule meetings with new prospects. But as usage increases and the tools went mainstream, it’s all just too much noise and the messages, videos, articles, posts and content get lost in the shuffle.
Even more important is that none of this is actually selling. It’s personal marketing.
In hindsight, most of the proclamations, predictions and posts were fake news. Neither selling, cold calling, sales process, or Consultative Selling are dead.
Today, we are starting the cycle again. It’s not inbound or blogging or social or Internet or video. This time around it’s artificial intelligence or AI. I know for a fact that AI will be awesome – just like the tools previously mentioned. But I also know that AI won’t replace salespeople. I don’t care how intelligent you can make the computer sound. Prospects are resistant by nature. As difficult as it is for salespeople to overcome that resistance, computers will have an even more challenging time. Why? It’s a lot easier to hang up on a robot than a Human. Oh, I know. They’ll build it so that it sounds human, responds to voice inflexions, is sensitive to emotions, and can converse better than a Human. But in the end, Humans won’t want to talk with AI any more than they want to respond to the voices prompting them to say “1” or “2” or “in a few words or less tell us why you’re calling” when their calls are answered by corporate automated answering systems. I don’t believe Humans will go back and forth with AI in an email either.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s back to the future.
Marketers can introduce, promote, fear-monger, market and proclaim the death of selling all they want. But the reality is, if you don’t sell the lowest priced product, don’t have the #1 rated quality product, or the hottest product, or what you sell is expensive, or it’s a new technology or you’re part of a start-up, you are an underdog and underdogs will always need great salespeople to overcome resistance, sell value, differentiate and create urgency.