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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Could Chatbots Replace Sales Reps?


If you’re the type of salesperson who focuses on maintaining existing accounts by being more responsive and service oriented, you may soon find yourself out of job. It’s the harsh reality (and opportunity) of the explosive expansion and use of chatbots.

What is a Chatbot?

Don’t know what a chatbot is? You’re certainly not alone. Chatbots have been around a relatively brief period of time in the digital landscape, but their impact should have certain sales and customer service reps questioning their place in an overall organization.

A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users. Chatbots became prevalent in enhancing a gamer’s experience in augmented-reality gaming worlds. If you’re not a gamer, you may be familiar with another chatbot: Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant designed to answer any question using your iPhone. Today, companies such as HP, 1-800-Flowers, and Mattel use chatbots for various functions — and in some cases, as an opportunity to reduce the number of customer service professionals needed.

The technology allows for simulated responses to commonly-asked questions while applying what may seem to be a “human” touch based on data collected and algorithms applied to mimic aspects of human behavior.

So if you’re a salesperson focused on customer service, your day-to-day responses to common customer inquiries could also be answered via a chatbot. So how do you stay relevant in an increasingly artificially enhanced sales environment? Solve real problems! Here are 3 ways to prove your worth beyond a chatbot.

1. Be proactive versus reactive.

Don’t wait for a problem to arise before you connect with an existing customer. Your best customers should hear from you frequently and not just with a “Hi… just wanted to see how things are going,” conversation. Be a resource and provide your expertise proactively. Sharing industry intelligence on LinkedIn is one example of how to do this, but you should also consider ways to be proactive one-to-one with select customers who are likely to impact your revenue.

2. Look for a needle in a haystack.

I hear lots of salespeople fish for trouble in the same pond as every other salesperson. Your needs analysis with a prospect or existing customer can be the ideal opportunity to shine at finding a real problem you can solve. Studies show that leading needs analysis questions with insights encourages someone to answer questions in greater depth and sets you apart from other average sales people — and potentially a chatbot.  

3. Look to solve problems with solutions, not products.

Many business can smell a product-of-the-day masked as a custom solution a mile away. Don’t be the salesperson that peddles product attributes all day long. Take the time to develop a real solution, and explain how your products help deliver on that solution. If you’ve conducted an in-depth needs analysis and found a problem no one else has been able to solve, you set yourself up for the chance to become a trusted and valued partner verses another vendor.

Be the salesperson customers want to meet with, rather than the salesperson who wants to meet with them. Chatbots won’t replace all aspects of how business is done or sales are made, but if you take an automated approach to taking care of your customers and prospects, automation can replace you.  

hourglass needs analysis
Topics: Needs Analysis Sales