July 19, 2024

What Salespeople Get Wrong About Using GenAI


The salesperson did everything right. In fact, they did it better than they ever had before. They researched the challenges within the customer’s organization. They made the perfect connection to their value proposition. They learned all about the customer’s business dynamics, their key people, and pressing industry trends. All this work was tied into a highly contextual and targeted outreach. Best of all, the seller did very little work, instead spending a short amount of time on ChatGPT and inserting some of the learnings into their organization’s AI-assisted outreach engine.

Now the way the storyline is supposed to go, we’d expect a remarkable ending: a historical sale with a raving customer feeling like a vendor finally “got it.” But in reality, the customer, expecting to speak with a real expert on their industry and challenges, is shocked when the seller only offers a standard talk track. The stark reality is that generative AI had set an expectation that the seller could not match. Instead of having an insightful sales conversation, the customer feels embarrassed they took the call and vows to never speak with that vendor again.

Stories like this are arising more commonly as generative AI takes a foothold in business transactions. Call it what you want — shallow knowledge or a façade of expertise — but the reality is that incredible amounts of highly relevant outreach efforts are happening with customers, all couched in relevant language and insightful commentary, only to fall apart in the actual sales dialogue.

Discussion of generative AI has maintained a fever pitch since OpenAI released ChatGPT-3.5 in late 2022. But enterprise-level adoption has remained spotty. Our Q3 survey of 113 CEOs found only 9% doing anything more than small-scale pilots, and only 26% even running small-scale pilots. Meanwhile, their frontline teams are rapidly incorporating generative AI into their workflows. In one of our live trainings with 50 frontline sales professionals, nearly three-quarters told us they expect AI to play a significant role in their work in the next 12 months, and 94% want leadership to formally integrate it into their sales programs. This gap in programmatic usage and understanding is leading to customer-harming behaviors, which we believe hold more downside than more commonly cited issues such as data or security risks.

A New Way to Work

In our consulting and advisory efforts at SBI Growth Advisory, we see far too many sellers treating generative AI like just another new piece of technology. Technologies automate otherwise complex work. They’re tools that present shortcuts.

Read the full article at harvardbusiness.org

Sales & MarketingChatbots, Robotics & AI

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