If you believe what you read, one in two jobs in Europe is under threat from automation. We all rely on digital technology so much every day that some people are concerned that ever smarter and more powerful computers might spell the end for human interaction in business, but for sales people, I think we should put things in perspective.
Of course digitalisation will continue to increase dramatically, and that inevitably means many jobs will become automated. However, many businesses have been distracted by the hype around digital transformation and have lost focus on how to create added value by using people to best advantage. In fact, the result of this is that the rare moments of human touch will become even more powerful and make a real difference in the customer relationship.
The emotional component
Companies must think about the things that computers cannot do. The left side of our brains cannot match the power and precision of computers for rational processes, but the right side of our brain is still light years ahead of the machines in dealing with emotional matters. Companies must use these qualities wisely if they want to develop a balanced, complementary and successful customer relationship; a relationship where the digital and human elements strengthen each other.
If companies are able to touch an emotional chord, they will be able to find a place in their customer's memories. Computers are great for keeping the rational processes running smoothly, but the role of humans must be to add emotion to the equation. As yet, computers have never been able to create anything new, show empathy to relate to the emotions of others or show the passion that will inspire others, but people can.
The human touch
I believe this all bodes well for the role of people in the customer relationship. All too often, people are used for routine process-driven work, but companies need to realise that the human element is becoming one of the scarcest resources in the customer relationship, and therefore one of the most strategically important.
For sales people, this means their role is fundamentally changing. Sales used to be about getting the appointment, telling your story, selling and then farming the relationship throughout the year. This is beginning to change because clients do more research on their own remotely and have less time for meetings, so the human aspect of sales is decreasing in frequency, making any human contact is more valuable than ever.
It also means that digital and human elements of the business must now combine to maximise sales. We all know the importance of a LinkedIn profile, but it now needs to go further and as a salesperson you can make yourself attractive online by sharing customer centric content. Think of content as “bait,” so sharing things that potential clients will be looking for will bring them to you, and put you at the forefront of their minds when they are ready to buy. You can then invest in a good digital “hook” to make sure you give potential clients the opportunity to leave their data online so you can keep building the relationship with them.
While computers have made life much easier for most of us, we should never forget that people buy from people. Business leaders, marketers and salespeople must think about how they can add value to customers that computers simply cannot, and then work towards achieving the perfect balance of digital and human.
By Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, keynote speaker & inspirator on customer centricity in a digital world. He is also the author of 'When Digital Becomes Human', Kogan Page. Subscribe to his videos or visit his website.