Today’s post is by Nate Vickery, a business technology expert and an online author. He is an editor at Bizzmark blog and a contributor to many other business-related online publications. Follow Nate on Twitter for more of his work at @NateMVickery.
There is nothing wrong about staying in the loop and looking into new developments in the world of sales tech. Quite the contrary: You need to stay in touch with what is going on if you wish to survive in the modern world of sales.
That being said, every time we turn our calendars to a new year, we get positively inundated with articles on the latest thing or two that will “forever change the world of sales.” Social selling and big data analytics are two of the more recent examples.
Yet here we are, with the vast majority of sales still being done in the same way they have been done for millennia – person to person.
So, what are the latest tech trends sales managers should probably ignore altogether in 2017?
Chatbots have been around for some time now, and their ubiquity on the vast majority of Websites has become more and more noticeable. The appeal of having an AI sales assistant was too much to ignore for many companies, including Facebook.
Earlier this year, however, it was precisely Facebook that decided to shelve their chatbot practice because it hit a 70 percent failure rate. You read that correctly – 70 percent failure rate. They discovered that its abilities have been far overestimated and they now plan to start from scratch – this time, using more narrowly focused chatbots that would not disappoint the users so vehemently.
When you realize that Facebook, with its all-but-limitless resources and expertise, still achieves only a 30 percent success rate with its chatbots, it is highly unlikely your company will be able to purchase a more successful solution.
The main reason Facebook’s (and others’) chatbots are having trouble delivering on their promises is that their natural language processing capabilities are still quite limited. Natural language processing (NLP) is a field that combines a number of disciplines (artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, and computer science) in order to enable computers to understand the natural language people use.
As Jason Baldridge, a computational linguist, says in an interview on the state of NLP, “There’s work to be done.”
Big data was supposed to be the next big thing a couple of years ago. Some sales managers might think 2017 is finally the time when big data will be able to provide the revolutionary shifts to the world of sales it should have by now, but this is simply not something that will happen any time soon.
Perhaps the best explanation for why big data is still taking baby steps and not yielding the results the corporate world expected is provided by none other than Michael I. Jordan – one of the world’s leading machine learning, AI, and statistics thinkers – in an interview for IEEE Spectrum. Among other things, he says, “So, with big data, it will take decades, I suspect, to get a real engineering approach, so that you can say with some assurance that you are giving out reasonable answers and are quantifying the likelihood of errors.”
He is not saying that big data does not show promise and that it cannot be employed in useful ways even today; it is just that it will take quite a bit of time and a more “engineering” approach before its success rate can justify the costs.
Outsourcing the Entire Process
Sales outsourcing is nothing novel; companies have been doing it for quite some time. The reason this trend found its place in this article is that new automation software solutions are reducing the prices and making comprehensive sales outsourcing a more attractive proposition.
A recent article from Salesforce’s blog points out that these new solutions also allow these outsourced partners to run the entire process from demand generation to acquisition and fulfillment.
Outsourcing the entire process will more likely result in a wide array of problems that might take time to fully come to light, but that will definitely harm sales managers in the long run. For one, you are putting the fate of your company in the hands of someone who may not be as bothered as you are whether it lives or dies. Also, you are missing out on the abundance of data and insights you would get by selling yourself.
This is not saying that outsourcing certain aspects of your sales process – as well as other parts of your operation, such as using outside IT companies or third-party logistics partners – does not make sense. It is just that outsourcing needs to be done carefully and only after seriously weighing your options.
Forget about what new tech enables you to do. Does it make sense for your company and your sales?
This article is not meant to turn anyone into a Luddite who will look at all sales tech with aversion. Its only goal is to show that sometimes tech trends are more talk than walk – and that it pays to be careful.