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If robots haven’t taken your job, they’ve taken something else: all of the headlines.

A.I. will transform work as we know it — in fact, it already has. Whether your business is in technology, finance, agriculture, or manufacturing, A.I. can find and dissect risk. It can analyze complicated patterns to present major revelations. Its potential is tremendous: UBS may use A.I. analysis of its clients’ facial expressions to give investment advice. Uber’s self-driving cars hit the road in Pittsburgh recently, while Ford ran demonstrations of autonomous vehicles in Michigan. Thanks to Google’s DeepMind, computers will soon sound much more like humans. As these stunning technologies continue to advance, the effects on our workforce will be profound. But as we enter this world, not everything will change. Much like humans, A.I. will be very strong in some areas, but can’t possibly do everything in others.

1. Handle scheduling conflicts

Take scheduling as an example. Everyone knows how painful scheduling can be. It seems like a perfect candidate for an activity to automate. And for some specific use cases, automated scheduling is very successful. But other times, it’s less straightforward. Sometimes the follow-up requires a judgment call: Is this an urgent matter that requires immediate attention? Is it just a routine meeting that can wait until the next week? Bots don’t yet understand the tone, speed, and rhythm of human interactions involved in making these kinds of decisions.

2. Make complex sales decisions

What A.I. won’t do is make complex decisions for you. That’s still up to us.

Consider your everyday choices as an employee. How do you start an email? Which product bug should you tackle first? It often depends on time, our biggest constraint. As major technology players invest heavily in A.I. to solve for efficiency and time, the spotlight on A.I. has grown brighter. And as Dreamforce approaches, many will attend with the goal to learn what A.I. can do for them and their teams. It makes sense. Sales teams, in particular, make tons of decisions in a limited time: when to follow up with a prospect, what collateral to send, how best to explain products for different roles and industries. These choices go directly to the company’s bottom line and that salesperson’s paycheck.

3. Make interpretations

A.I. will present the facts, but the interpretation will remain up to the user. The user’s job, then, is to become a better interpreter of data, a more critical decision-maker, and a savvier negotiator. As A.I. becomes omnipresent in the workplace, these softer skills will become even more important for employees to cultivate. Employers will search for candidates who can set themselves apart as strategic thinkers and company leaders.

A.I. won’t help you sell value. While we have more data about customers and prospects than ever before, real understanding of a company still requires conversation, empathy, and interpersonal relationships, just as great business always has. This is especially true in sales and marketing, which rely on building connections with prospects and users.

4. Replace people

The sale of complex products, like software, requires a true relationship between customer and vendor, one in which the customer trusts the vendor as an adviser. What A.I. will do is give us more of that precious resource: time. A.I. will give us more time to build those relationships and show us data to inform those meaningful conversations. If anything, A.I. will make the sales organization and its employees more important than ever. It will highlight what “B2B” really means: people selling to people.


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