As a sales professional, you might be worried that AI is coming for your job. But do you know what might kill your career even faster? A lack of credibility in the eyes of buyers.
Our research reveals that only one in four Americans view salespeople as credible in what they say and do. Witness recent trends in automotive shopping, for example. Automotive sales professionals have extremely low credibility levels, so vehicle buyers are using AI-based apps to guide their purchase decisions. For B2B purchasing, Gartner research shows that a third of all buyers prefer to engage in a salesperson-free buying experience.
What does that mean for the future of sales? While the AI revolution is changing how salespeople operate faster than many realize, it doesn’t represent the end of the industry.
Aristotle outlined the three necessary elements of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos. Sales professionals should know that these terms translate to “credibility,” “logic,” and “emotion.” Embracing AI and incorporating each of these elements into daily practice can enhance your sales approach as long are you are mindful of its limitations.
The power of persuasion starts with credibility. When buyers check out a LinkedIn profile, a video produced by the seller, or an article quoting the seller as an expert, they are judging a person’s credibility. This credibility builds in a buyer’s mind before they reach out to a seller.
Sellers can use AI tools to build their online profile and pump out more thought leadership to show up higher in search results. It can also help you overcome writer’s block and help you create new ideas. But be careful. Using AI shortcuts to do parts of your job can lead to disaster because, sometimes, its output is generically obvious or off the mark altogether.
To stand out from the crowd, you must constantly improve your perception as someone who knows what they are talking about and knows how to help. Credibility is built by making sense of complexity, recommending personalized solutions, and doing what you say you’re going to do. Much of this comes from experience, not AI.
Logic is where AI shines. Technology brings forth an endless amount of publicly available data to appeal to a buyer’s logical needs. For example, sales professionals can provide value by sharing trends or online reports that are relevant to company goals. But the best data lives somewhere behind a paywall. So pre-sales research with proprietary SaaS-based sales intelligence tools is still a must.
In its current state, AI can be finicky. It is important to remember that how you formulate your instruction determines whether AI provides something useful or something bland and uninteresting. Even the most subtle difference in instruction generates very different results.
You know through your experience that people buy on emotion and justify their decisions with logic. But emotion is where AI falls well short. A human salesperson has the opportunity to feel the energy in the room that’s caused when one is making a significant change or decision. Empathy can be offered if a problem is taking a toll on the buyer personally or on their family life. Reassurance can be offered to the buyer who’s struggling with their decision because a mistake will cost them significant political capital.
In our post-pandemic world, many buyers are reluctant to meet in person – leaving sellers to contend with video technology. AI can help sellers read interest and energy levels by detecting facial expressions, eye movements, and vocal tones. These are important cues an inattentive salesperson might miss on their own.
Savvy use of AI can bring sales professionals a competitive edge. But if AI writes an email that’s underwhelmingly generic or hasn’t been carefully reviewed and edited, your credibility will take a hit. The recent embarrassment at CNET proves my point. Being credible means sharing information that is accurate and on point.
AI is a two-edged sword. It’s a threat to transactional salespeople and customer service agents who already rely too heavily on automated email sequences, scripted sales pitches, and cookie-cutter proposals. On the other hand, it can serve as a quasi-sales assistant, brainstorming aide, or even a second set of eyes in the sales process. But it’s no replacement for an experienced, caring salesperson who delivers positive business outcomes for their clients.
For more information about how to develop sales credibility, visit salescred.com.
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