Jose Palomino

5 Tips For Surviving the Robot Takeover

September 27, 2016


With more and more business services becoming automated, it feels like every day we lose a little bit more of the human side of sales. Customer service helplines cycle callers through a handful of machines before they ever speak to a real human, and online ordering means that millions of customers can avail themselves of a product or service without ever interacting directly a live person (not necessarily a bad thing – just the way things are going.)

On a more extreme level, robots are replacing hundreds of jobs that we would’ve thought only a human could do. They’re becoming sushi chefs, pro-bono lawyers, hotel room service, and waiters. They’re even beating us at foosball. Tech Insider reports that with today’s technology robots could feasibly replace 45% of jobs that humans currently hold.

Luckily, there are still some things that only humans can do — ways that you can use genuine human interaction to make sure your company, and your job, is irreplaceable.

1.) Build relationships. Call your clients just to say “hello.”

It’s true that a robot could place automated phone calls to a fixed list of clients. But a robot can’t build a relationship the way a human can — it cannot honestly understand, empathize with, or create a connection with a client. You can.

By calling valued clients — without looking to sell them anything — you make them know that you value them as more than just a dollar number. You make them feel that they are important to your company. This is a feeling that’s often missing when a customer calls a helpline — and reaches only automated machines that keep them on hold for hours.

2.) Allow freedom in online client interaction.

The value of a set customer relations policy cannot be discounted. But if your employees are stuck in a set response, it can seem almost like robotic automation. Give your employees some freedom when responding to clients online.

Twitter, Facebook, and other apps are valuable tools for connecting to your client base. It is important to respond to clients, and show them that you value them reaching out — whether or not they have positive things to say. But if you respond to every inquiry in the same way, you’re not really interacting. Be conversational, and tailor your responses to the specific situation and customer inquiry. Don’t rely overly much on planned responses.


3.) Share personal anecdotes. Enhance personal expertise.

One thing that robots certainly cannot do is share stories about their life. Personal anecdotes serve to endear you to your customer — build that valued relationship — and can also be used to demonstrate your past experiences, successes, and ability.

It’s a no-brainer that many clients place a high value on past experiences. They want to know that you’ve dealt with problems and situations like theirs before — and that you’ve successfully tackled them. By sharing personal stories, you can assure customers of your capability.

4.) Add a personal touch to your sales process.

Something I encourage my B2B clients to do is — send a thank you note after your interaction with a client has concluded. That way, you keep your relationship with that client open — you create an opportunity for return business. The client might even tell others about their experience working with you and your company.

Robots can send automated thank you notes, yes. But what I’m trying to get across here is this — add a personal touch to your sales process. Whatever it is, it needs to be something that differentiates you, and makes your company memorable — for the human aspect.

5.) Refine and improve your product knowledge.

It’s important for salespeople in any industry to have a deep understanding of their offering and its uses. What a pre-programmed robot can’t do is think of creative solutions, whether it’s in B2B sales or otherwise. A person’s capacity to think outside the box is a large part of what makes us more equipped for certain positions than robots (or people functioning like robots.)

Robots cannot creatively problem-solve – although they can follow a problem-triage process to come up with some good answers. However, refining and improving your knowledge of your offering will put you in the unique position of being able to sell it in creative ways. One thing robots cannot do is truly understand the needs of the client — and work together with them to propose a way that your offering can be the solution to their problems.

Bottom line:

There are some things a robot will never be able to do as well as a human. As a B2B sales professional, there are certain aspects of your job that should not be automated — like customer interaction, and customer relationships.

  • Do you place high value on creative problem solving? Or do you tend to stick to the traditional use of your offering when selling?
  • Are personal anecdotes an important part of your customer interaction?
  • Do you ever call your clients just to say “hello?” Or are all your conversations sales- and business-related?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gail Gardner September 28, 2016 at 2:57pm

I agree with #2 and wish more ecommerce sites would take that to heart. Just because you can let your site take orders that does not mean you should avoid interacting with your buyers.

While it may be tempting to hide your phone number and send calls to voicemail, you risk missing out on valuable feedback. A customer might be trying to let you know your site isn’t working properly or there are pricing errors. Customers may not tell you that they are going to shop elsewhere because you aren’t willing to engage. They simply leave and you lose their business.

I’m working on a post right now about how Steve Wynn uses personal stories to make his employees passionate about customer service. He credits that one storytelling strategy with making his businesses so successful.


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