Today, many customers are better informed than the salespeople they engage with, largely due to the substantial amount of research they do beforehand. This well-documented phenomenon – of information asymmetry swinging from the salesperson to the customer in recent times – is manifesting itself across countless industries, and is being compounded by another trend called ‘mass personalisation’. Better informed and educated, customers are increasingly dictating what they want and demanding a more personalised service when they buy.
They also want to deal with salespeople who educate them and provide contextually relevant information, and to not waste time on probing questions that highlight ignorance. This amplifies the pressure on sales and marketing departments, who are finding themselves on the wrong end of these trends and ill-equipped to cope. Unable to reverse the tide, many salespeople are finding their once-lucrative jobs disappearing and being replaced by self-service models, and corporate margins are under siege by well-informed consumers who shop the market for the best deals
Where will it all lead? Enter artificial intelligence.
Although much has been written about the potential loss of jobs to artificial intelligence software and robots, a far more interesting and immediate application of articifial intelligence revolves around its ability to make certain jobs more productive – in particular, within sales and marketing departments. In fact, the ability of artificial intelligence to quickly shift through very large amounts of data and convert generic information into specific knowledge, is fundamentally changing the face of sales and marketing departments in many industries. Consider that artificial intelligence can automate the complex analytical and research tasks required to create information symmetry, and boost the return on sales and marketing initiatives through better allocation of resources and improved (ie personalised) messaging and pricing.
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