In the 1950s, a salesperson needed one primary characteristic: charisma. Their success depended on their ability to connect with potential customers, listen to their needs, and form a relationship based on trust. Then came the 1980s and 1990s, and everything changed.
Suddenly, salespeople needed to crunch numbers and illustrate administrative skills to succeed. They became documenters and technologists rather than relationship-builders.
Now, we’re entering the artificial intelligence era, and everyone is quaking in their boots that their job might be overtaken by AI in sales.
At Exceed.ai, we’re not nervous—because we view this new era differently.
We welcome it and even celebrate it.
We see that things have come full circle.
By partnering with AI-powered tools, today’s salespeople can delegate their administrative work and return to their original skill set. The ability to build relationships, listen actively, and make people comfortable have regained priority.
In fact, there are now three critical traits SDRs are going to need moving forward thanks to AI.
1. Fearlessness of AI
The only way to succeed in the AI era is to embrace it without fear.
According to research by InsideSales, over 20% of sales teams who don’t use AI tools say it’s because they don’t trust AI, and 5% are scared it will take their jobs. That makes over a quarter of sales teams avoiding AI out of fear.
When you’re scared of AI, it clouds your ability to spot its potential in your workflows and holds you back from making full use of it. Over 25% of sales teams don’t use AI because they don’t understand it, and another 15% say it’s too hard to implement. But when you have the right solution, you’ll find that it’s not as intimidating as you thought.
Instead of avoiding it, invest time and energy understanding and deploying the right AI assistant.
AI assistants enable sales teams to make the best use of their time by taking over repetitive administrative tasks, freeing sales reps to focus on the things only humans can do.
(For instance, Exceed.ai assistants can schedule calls and book meetings, make initial contact with cold leads, qualify them, identify the best time to reconnect with potential customers, and unfailingly follow up on new leads through natural, two-way conversations over email and chat.)
When you let go of your fear and really partner with your AI sales assistant, working alongside it effectively, you can prioritize your time more efficiently and convert more leads into sales opportunities.
2. People Skills and Relationship Building
The biggest benefit of sales in the AI era is that now, SDRs are free to dedicate the bulk of their time doing the things AI can’t do, like banter, joke, find common ground, and build genuine relationships with potential customers.
Human nuance, demonstrating emotion, and connecting with people is what SDRs were born to do. But in the last two decades, half of their time was required for email, communicating back and forth to establish, confirm, and reschedule meetings, following up, and documenting every interaction. As a result, their true sales skills set, including fostering relationships and closing deals, became stymied.
AI has created the opportunity for SDRs to excel at exactly what they were hired to do. It unleashes their tether to the documentation side of the business and frees them to create the relationships your customers want.
Today’s buyers want to trust their vendors and suppliers. They’re looking for authentic, personal connections with salespeople who not only know about their needs but care about them, too.
Recent research by Salesforce revealed that 75% of buyers expect companies to understand their needs, and 79% want to interact with a salesperson they trust. SDRs have to listen carefully to the lead’s concerns and pain points and convey that the customer has really been heard. Through good communication, human warmth, and adding value, SDRs need to fill the role of trusted advisor to their leads.
3. Being a Team Player
Entering the AI era doesn’t mean that SDRs will suddenly become “lone wolves,” sitting together with their AI assistant, set apart from the rest of the marketing and sales teams.
On the contrary, skills as a team player will be more important than ever, and more productive. AI will make SDR teams smaller, placing each representative in a holistic unit that brings together sales, marketing, and customer service. SDRs will have to grasp the big picture, considering all the interactions between the three departments. Only SDRs who recognize and prioritize cross-collaboration will succeed.
SDRs also have to embrace greater transparency within the team and let go of their pride in doing everything themselves. It’s going to require a completely new perspective, where every sale is truly a joint effort. They’ll need to be willing to share information, leads, and insights openly and freely, learn how to intelligently delegate to their AI partner, and become willing to hand over leads for someone else to complete the sale.
With the advent of AI, salespeople can’t hide poor interpersonal skills behind their admin work. We’ve returned to the “golden age” of sales, where charisma, charm, and trustworthiness rule the roost.
SDRs must abandon their fear of AI and learn how to delegate to it, then polish up their people skills and collaboration abilities.
Ready to get started being an SDR of the future? Visit Exceed.ai below to learn how to use AI to let SDRs unleash their charisma and return to relationship-building.
Ilan Kasan is co-founder and CEO of Exceed.ai, a conversational marketing and sales automation platform enabling sales teams to scale and sell more.