3 ways to use AI wrong

May 11, 2023
Selling SaaS Newsletter head page showing Duane Dufault smiling into the camera in a white button down shirt.

Gone are the days when we could smile-and-dial our way to 6-figures. Now, AI’s coming for your job and you’re having to do more with… well more. That’s right, we’re expected to do more now because we have more tools to hand.

Fearing AI? I firmly believe that AI sales tools, like other technological developments, is going to force salespeople to get better at whatever they do, be that sales-led revenue generation, go-to-market strategy, or product-led growth facilitation. AI is a positive when used right.

Let me be a soothing voice amid a world of headless chickens afraid, “The robots are taking over!” Insert eye roll HERE.

First, let me ask you:
Are you against AI sales enablement or are the people you sell to against AI, and you feel you need to be relatable?

Way to use AI wrong #1: Ask it to add a personal touch

In my experience, the people who are concerned by AI think that us salespeople are hoping to use it to have personal, human-like conversations. I find myself having this conversation often though: you can’t automate a personal touch. For me, an AI sales bot can help prepare a sales rep to take action. It’s not going to personalize emails [well] at scale.

And you know what? I understand the fear.

Rapid-dialing systems get a rep on the phone with some random, they have to quickly scan their name and then somehow – if possible – generate rapport with the person who’s already irritated by the “click” that indicated they answered an automated sales call.

On another day an email comes through to us that’s painfully generic, but it does have our company name, our first name, and maybe even our industry, included in the text.

That feeling of knowing you’re talking to a human is no better when it’s a human that knows nothing about us. I suspect the fear of salespeople leaning HARD into AI is the suspicion that we’ll subject prospects to more of those cold, impersonal interactions.

These bad applications of AI sales bots have built up a lot of distrust. You're gonna see a theme around that word...

Way to use AI wrong #2: Expect it to build trust

There’s a barrier holding a lot of leaders back from making the most of AI sales tools. I’d even guess that this is affecting newer salespeople more… And it’s not the fence they’re sitting on!

What AI can do is SCALE the level of research you need to do before reaching out to someone. If, in the 70s, you had to know all about someone’s company before you knocked on their office door, today is the same. We’re simply living in denial if we think the same respect isn’t due before we send out an email.

If reps are negating the impact that a human connection can have on their work, that’s a bigger barrier to their growth than AI adoption or not.

Way to use AI wrong #3: Demand it speed things up

Partner referrals and partner connections were my obsession when I was an acc. Exec. I wanted to get out of inbound where you’re constantly on an awkward first date, trying to woo people who don’t know you. I was pretty happy with a slow-burn partnership.

The art of connection, building trust, and maintaining a relationship cannot be sped up. In a world where everything else can be fast forward: the Netflix series to skip the intro; the YouTube tutorial set at 1.5 playback speed; you can even pay for faster outcomes from delivery services… But you can’t speed up trust.

How am I going to spend 6 figures on a tool from someone I met 2-weeks ago? The emotional side of sales is not going to be replaced by AI.

My not-so-secret insight, as a senior sales leader

So, here’s the insider knowledge I learned in years of building trust. Save yourself some time (but not as much as you hope, I expect!):

Meet and greet.

There’s no substitute for old-school, traditional networking. Yup: You gotta attend the events, rub shoulders, and genuinely offer value without expecting anything in return.

Grow secondary relationships.

Don’t assume the name on the check is the decision-maker. Build trust with mid-level managers. Even better? Build trust with low-level managers so they already trust you when they get promoted.

Bringing this back to AI sales tools: You need to give relationships time.

You also need to give prospects time. Do not make the mistake of assuming that your AI sales bot gave you all the right info (yeah, we know it messes up plenty) and don’t assume that your prospect knows what the AI does.

“Huh, Duane?”

Here’s an example:

You rock up to a sales call, fully aware of every pain point your prospect is facing. You launch straight into the value proposition, connecting your product to their struggles. You feel confident.

 The prospect? They’re confused. “How do they know this about me,” is hopefully what they’re thinking, not: “I don’t have those problems.”

Sometimes, the prospect needs to reach their own conclusions. Don’t rush them.

And the top tip for absolutely any salesperson:
Have a conversation. Be a human, even if AI did your research.

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