Is Generative AI Coming for Your Sales Job?


In March, Microsoft launched Viva Sales, an application outfitted with generative AI technology intended to help salespeople draft tailored customer emails, gain insights about customers/prospects, and generate recommendations and reminders. A few weeks later, Salesforce launched their version, Einstein GPT.

Sales has long been viewed as a people-oriented job with many more unpredictable elements than, say, finance or marketing, and so the industry has been slower to adopt digital technologies. But according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, generative AI such as the now (in)famous ChatGPT, made by OpenAI, may well become every salesperson’s indispensable digital assistant. 

Because sales interactions produce large volumes of data that need to be organized, such as written communications in emails or texts, recorded audio of conversations, or videos, generative AI is perfectly suited to capture and organize these unstructured and varied data sets. These AI models can then analyze these data sets and make customized recommendations for communications and other future courses of action in regards to a particular client. 

But, as you may have heard, generative AI can sometimes be wrong, biased, or inconsistent. The ideal generative AI partner in a sales organization would be trained specifically on the company’s systems and data to lessen the chances of these kinds of errors. But this requires the (rare) expertise of those with knowledge at the intersection of sales and AI. Until then, what can sales organizations do to take advantage of AI without creating more work for themselves? 

What AI Can Do for Salespeople 

There are certainly a lot of benefits to using AI in sales as it now stands: 

  • Reverse administrative creep. Generative AI can help write emails, respond to requests, organize information, and do other administrative tasks that pile up as organizations grow.
  • Enhance customer interactions. AI can recommend personalized content for communications with customers based on their preferences, behaviors, and past interactions. Salespeople can accept or reject these recommendations and give feedback to the AI, teaching it to make even better recommendations next time. 
  • Assist sales managers. The time sales managers used to spend looking at reports and analytics can now be spent interacting with AI as a diagnostic tool, querying the system for recommendations on everything from where to focus efforts geographically to how to best motivate particular salespeople and give them constructive feedback. 

Given these capabilities, AI has a lot to offer even without building a specialized model in-house for company use (which also happens to be a laborious and time-consuming task). Some companies may find it makes the most sense to develop an internal team of AI experts who are versed in sales, led by a “boundary spanner” – someone who, as the name implies, speaks the language of both AI and sales. Such a boundary spanner would be able to implement sales-friendly AI solutions that are also scalable and sustainable long-term. 

“We expect AI-powered technologies to rapidly become every salesperson’s and every sales manager’s digital assistant,” wrote the Harvard Business Review. What generative AI is doing for copywriters and coders, HBR said, it can do for salespeople too. 

The same way that inside sales have taken over many tasks that field salespeople used to do, AI is starting to take over tasks that digital and inside salespeople once had to spend precious time on. But complex sales still require a human touch for identifying needs, tailoring sales solutions, and navigating large buying organizations. After all, many people would still rather deal with a human than a robot in a lot of customer service and sales situations (at least for now). So you don’t need to worry about those robots coming for your job… yet.

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