286 The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 9

The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 9

 

SAM: The Killer App

Because advanced technologies and data are already available in the Cloud, the deployment of SAM will be very flexible and pervasive. Initially SAM could emerge as a mobile smartphone app or as an internet-based appliance that is integrated with other online applications and accessible from any computing device. In each scenario, both customers and sales professionals will have full access to these breakthrough technologies that will lead the Selling Revolution. 

 

A fully featured SAM is not yet commercially available, but the rollout of SAM-like capabilities could be initiated within the next couple of years. 

 

SAM has the potential to have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness and the efficiency of the sales force. Responsibilities will naturally shift as repeatable, transactional tasks will more and more often be performed by SAM. However, highly skilled, talented sales professionals will continue to play an increasingly strategic role in the sales cycle. As their time is freed up, they will focus on building stronger customer relationships, demonstrate substantial business value, and uniquely position their solutions by focusing on competitive differentiators. 

 

When you consider the astonishing capabilities of the Sales Advisor Machine and how it will transform the world of selling, technology is becoming so advanced that as author Arthur C. Clarke wrote

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

 

And there it is. SAM will emerge like technological “magic” that is poised to impact the sales force and to transform the selling industry.

 

I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue the discussion on the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine in the next briefing. 

 

285 The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 8

The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 8

 

We continue the discussion on SAM the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine. 

 

Trends that Are Leading to SAM’s Full Debut are currently developing and will make SAM feasible and acceptable in the near future.

 

Virtual Sales Assistants

Early efforts are already automating sales interactions for B2B customers: e-commerce purchases, call center automated chats, and simplified sales assistants are already in place. These will continue to expand in presence and functionality. 

 

Virtual Sales Assistants in the form of “smart speakers” are already widely used. These work by “listening” for a consumer’s single word command, then providing answers to questions or commands. Consumer adoption of this technology has grown at an exponential rate. 

 

Guided Selling Assistantsare already available commercially and in use for consumers who directly purchase electronics products, cameras, and even configure and buy motor vehicles online. These are currently targeted toward business-to-consumer (B2C) sales. 

 

Customer AcceptanceConsumers are already comfortable using Virtual Sales Assistants and automated chats, something that will continue to become more pervasive for consumer purchases. It is just a matter of time for this approach to make its way into B2B customer interactions, which will pave the way for acceptance of SAM. 

 

Salesperson Avoidance

The desire to avoid human salespeople will continue to persist as virtual options become more realistic and less intimidating than speaking with a live salesperson. 

 

Technology Adoption

As younger generations who have been raised on smartphones, video games, and other virtual technology emerge into business roles and become buyers, it will be increasingly more acceptable for them to readily conduct conversations with a Virtual Sales Advisor. 

 

I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue the discussion on the  Virtual Sales Advisor Machine in the next briefing. 

 

284 The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 7

The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 7

 

We continue the discussion on SAM the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine. 

 

In the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000, was an artificially intelligent supercomputer that was depicted as a glowing, red camera lens with a yellow dot in the center—a rather primitive representation. 

 

What if SAM not only spoke with a familiar dialect like a human but even looked like a human? And what if SAM exhibited features like those of the human customers? And was able to project emotions, facial expressions, and gestures? After all, if SAM could smile, wouldn’t that be a great first step to developing rapport with the customer? 

 

SAM is coming, and when it does it will have realistic human features and capabilities that will help it feel familiar and comfortable—something a customer needs in order to have confidence in their interactions. 

 

Advanced video games and virtual training modules often feature virtual “avatars” who move, sound, and act like humans. The avatar can be male or female and is dressed like its human counterparts. This avatar creates a calming situation that can help put the nervous viewer at ease, smiling, blinking, and guiding the novice through each step in the game or module. 

 

SAM will help guide potential customers through the initial first steps of the sales process and help prepare them to enter the high-stakes arena of a full-blown sales relationship with greater ease. 

 

Helping “pre-qualify” customers in early stages makes SAM a very attractive Artificial Intelligence option for sales organizations and will help streamline the sales process so that human sales professionals will have the valuable time they need to complete the more complex steps of the sales cycle. 

 

I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue the discussion on the  Virtual Sales Advisor Machine in the next briefing. 

 

283 The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 6

The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 6

 

We continue the discussion on SAM the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine. 

 

The Second Role: Automatic SAM—Becoming the Sales Professional 

SAM will eventually be deployed to handle many of the sales process steps currently performed by human sales reps. As the knowledge base becomes more robust, SAM could potentially even handle transactions for medium- to large-ticket items.

 

Here are 6 areas where SAM can serve in the role of the sales professional:

 

1) Customer Conversations – SAM will personify the actions of a human sales professional to guide the steps of the sales process by directly communicating with the customer. As SAM manages the conversation with the customer, it will also know when a human sales professional needs to be engaged in the sales cycle. 

 

2) Customer Surveys – SAM will correspond with the customer to gain an understanding of business needs, requirements, and issues. The customer provides preliminary information that can accelerate SAM’s discovery of the customer’s needs. 

 

3) Solution Selection – SAM will evaluate the results of the customer surveys, then select the type of solutions that could work best for the customer. SAM will also favorably position the selected solution by communicating unique differentiators and business value points.

 

4) Solution Recommendation – Using all available data from the surveys, the CRM, and purchase history based on the needs of other customers, SAM will make specific recommendations for the solution(s) to be proposed. 

 

5) Pricing Proposal – SAM will prepare and deliver customer proposals that document the pricing, terms and conditions; any relevant case studies or testimonials; and a business value proposition that is tied to the unique benefits of the proposed solution.

 

6) Customer Service Assistant – SAM will answer solution-related questions, select specific solution options, and resolve simple to moderately complex service issues.

 

I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue the discussion on the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine in the next briefing. 

 

282 The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 5

The Virtual Sales Advisor Machine Part 5

 

We continue the discussion on SAM the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine. 

 

How SAM Can Serve the Sales Team

As SAM gains in effectiveness over time, SAM will serve the sales team in two distinct roles: 

 

The First Role: Ask SAM—Assisting the Sales Professional

While the human sales professional is still fully in charge of executing each task in the sales cycle, SAM’s advisory capabilities can augment the work of the human salesperson. SAM will be initially deployed to serve as an intelligent assistant to help complete time-consuming tasks previously handled manually by the sales professional. 

 

Here are seven areas where SAM can provide valuable help to the sales professional:

 

1) Customer Research – to assist the sales professional in creating a strategy for pursuit that will increase the potential of building a mutually beneficial relationship by accessing customer data from all sources. 

 

2) Opportunity Identification – to analyze all available data on prospective and current customers and identify the best candidates to pursue. 

 

3) Targeted Marketing – to identify the best targets for marketing campaigns. Then, evaluate the effectiveness of each campaign by analyzing the conversion rates from prospects that previously turned into customers. 

 

4) Request for Proposal (RFP) Preparation – to handle requests for information either through a survey or interactive chat and assist in building RFP responses. 

 

5) Pricing and Proposal Preparation – to handle product pricing and quotes, then compile the major elements of a customer proposal and ensure adherence to company policies. 

 

6) Customer Communication—Schedule reminders for follow-up communications with customers and identify the best content and method for interaction. 

 

7) Demos—Build the structure and recommended content of a customer demo (and proofs) and refer to a repository of interactive or scripted demos that can be selected based on customer requirements. 

 

I’m DJ Sebastian, and we’ll continue the discussion on the Virtual Sales Advisor Machine in the next briefing.