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The 2023 Sales Dilemma
Michael Norton, EVP of Enterprise, Sandler

Salespeople have never had a greater advantage and opportunity than they do today.

They can secure even greater advantages and opportunities with each passing day. That's because artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technology continue to make advancements that help salespeople develop closer and stronger relationships with their clients and prospects.

Yet a lot of salespeople and sales leaders don't see it that way. They see their main dilemma as one of getting, not just more leads, but more qualified leads. Fortunately, the sales-enabling and marketing-enabled technologies now driven by AI are making this goal much easier to attain– at least, for organizations that grasp the power of these technologies and leverage them.

But for many salespeople, there remains an underlying, and far more serious, dilemma, one of attitude. They are stuck in the 21st-century version of a very old problem, one that has been known for decades as the Scarcity Mindset. They fear that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technology will replace them.

These salespeople worry that buyers will no longer need them around to make an intelligent buying decision. They fear there will not be enough to go around.

The reality we face is simultaneously more encouraging and more challenging than that.

AI will not replace salespeople... but AI-empowered salespeople will replace those salespeople who choose not to embrace the future of selling.

Selling is still about choosing abundance over scarcity, and it is still about trust and honest communication– the two most important ingredients in any relationship. Today’s sellers need to remember that when their organization's marketing technologies deliver those sought-after high-quality leads, their job is to initiate trust, build trust, maintain trust, and further trust. And the best way of doing this is to lean into, not away from, the revolutionary sales-enabling technologies that have been made available to us.

To initiate trust, show up fully prepared for the first call or meeting, leveraging AI to know as much about the prospect, their industry, and their competition as possible.

To build trust, use what was discovered in the first call or meeting and continue researching the solutions that will best meet the needs of the prospect– even if it means that you are recommending a competitor or other solution that is not your own. This approach goes a long way indeed in building trust.

Once we have received a qualified lead, initiated trust in the first call, and built trust through honest adult-to-adult truth-based communication to create a relationship that wins the business, we must also maintain trust. All too often, this responsibility gets left out of the equation. We lose track of the relationship once the deal “closes.”

So: Stop thinking in terms of closing!

There will inevitably be delivery or other customer service issues; there will probably also be price increases at some point; there be unexpected shifts in the buyer's world that neither side can predict right now. These and other events will require a strong relationship if they are to be handled properly and if the relationship is to grow over time. As sellers, we need to stay more informed than our competition, and if you think AI isn't part of that, you're not reading the horizon well.

We need to get out in front of the challenge that shows up in our buyer's world, whatever form it takes, and we need to share relevant information with our buyers and their stakeholders. That means delivering difficult information when necessary, and in a way that strengthens, rather than weakens, the relationship. Humans will always have an advantage over computers in this regard. When clients know that they can count on us to deliver honest but difficult news, they know that they can also trust us to take care of their needs as a customer.

Furthering trust means that as sellers, we are leaning into AI and other information technology as much as possible, so we can make sure we see trends and shifts in the business and/or industry we serve before they impact our clients. When we can proactively bring information and insights to our clients that could help bring about advanced solutions, or help them to mitigate risks that connect to potential changes in their industry, this furthers the trust between the buyer and the salesperson.

I began this article with the dilemma that most sellers care about: filling their funnel with qualified sales leads they can pursue. However, the real dilemma today’s sellers face has to do with a decision: embracing either the Scarcity Mindset or the Abundance Mindset.

In 2023, embracing the Abundance Mindset means embracing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sales enabling technologies with everything we've got.

Gone are the days of Chief Revenue Officers or Chief Sales Officers accepting the excuse that part (or all!) of their sales force can’t even open an email or use a laptop. If you choose not to adapt to the world in which you now live and work, you will be left behind. That's not scare talk. That’s reality.

Here, then, is a wake-up call for today’s seller, regardless of tenure, age, or perceived influence within the company: We must all get on board the train and become AI-empowered sellers. If we don't find our seat on this train, we will be replaced by salespeople who are leveraging all that AI, machine learning, and sales-enabling technologies have to offer.

If you doubt this, compare the recent commission checks of those who are embracing the AI revolution with those who are not. I predict that you will instantly see the difference!

Sales leaders: Are you certain you and your sellers are on board the train that's heading toward the future of selling? Or do you feel like you or your team may have been left behind at the station?

If you’d like to know more about how to make the shift, and/or how to get buy-in and adoption from your team on the ideas I have shared here, I would love to hear your story.

Contact us so we can talk about what needs to happen for your team to learn how to advance at the same pace the AI advancements are coming. 2023 really can be a better-than-quota achieving year. But the key to making that happen is starting the AI conversation sooner, rather than later!


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