The future of sales training? Robots need not apply

Doug Tucker, MD of Sales Commando explores technology’s impact on sales 

Out there, the world is changing. Technology is advancing, science is accelerating and, as a consequence, society is hurtling towards what some see as a human-less automated robotic Armageddon. But is this really true? And if it is (even partly so) what effect will this stampede of innovation have on sales training and the sales profession? The first thing to look at in an attempt to predict the future of sales training is what is happening to sales right now and, in terms of changes, there is much to note.

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Society is now networked and we’re becoming increasingly globalised. Customers are changing their habits and their approach to buying is now using multiple technologies and the demand is on sales people to be more agile and adapt to match. We’re at the point where customers have most likely researched our products or services before we’ve even made contact. And in many cases they will already have had a dialogue with our existing customers.

The impact of this on the sales professional is profound. The traditional pitch has now transformed and sales people are having to learn to enter the pitch cycle later than ever before. And with the pitch cycle shorter there’s less opportunity to build the trust and respect that a successful sales relationship demands.

Add to this the dramatic increase in the number of technologies sales people are having to manage plus the fact that today’s sales people are pulled in so many directions and have such pressure put on them to hit their targets that…well…it’ll all end in meltdown. Or maybe it won’t.

Advancing sales training
The fact is there’s never been a greater need for intensive sales training. And before you say “I knew you were going to say that” let me explain how sales training is already changing to help sales people cope and succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s market places.

What sales people need is a toolkit of advanced techniques to allow them to not only use technology but to master the changing way sales are being made and the way customers are thinking  – and sales training is adapting to do just that by evolving courses to include more specific content allied to the current and predicted selling environments.

Put simply, the more selling changes, the more sales people will have to change and enabling that change has brought a new dependency on more sophisticated sales training techniques.

For example, sales people now need to quickly understand context and come up with innovative solutions that enable them to add value in even the most challenging situations and sales training is critical to that.

Technology in sales and sales training
With sales people increasingly using technologies like social media and CRM software, there’s a flood of customer centric metrics that can aid the sales process and this will only intensify as technology refines and spreads. We’re living in a seemingly ever-more data driven world and it’s easy to imagine that all we need to do is stick our heads into our computers, our emails, our calendar and task management tools and hey presto, sale made and job done.

There’s something missing here and it’s the oldest form of communication – one to one human contact. Nothing works without it. Here’s an example from the sales perspective.

A successful haulier of heavy goods in Australia struck a new deal with a client over a thousand miles away in Perth. The deal was brokered via email and telephone but it wasn’t sealed until the haulage firm boss made a flight to Perth to shake the new client’s hand. Technology was a facilitator not a deal-binding deciding factor.

And the same goes for sales training. Technology will increasingly become a facilitator – it already is – but never at the expense of human interaction. Can we predict the future of sales training? Yes, it’ll look a lot like it is now, just the techniques taught will evolve, as they always have done.

So when do we all turn into robots?
One of the biggest frustrations is that we often use technology for technology’s sake. Just because ‘there’s an app for it’ doesn’t mean using the app is any better than the way we did things before.

Are we at the point where technology is overtaking everything? No. We’re at the point where technology is facilitating ever more sophisticated selling and buying patterns. And in consequence we’re also at the point where the emphasis on sales training to provide a sales advantage has never been more intense.

Will sales people and sales trainers be replaced by robots in the future? Absolutely not because, as it happens, we are and always will be human. Robots need not apply.

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