It’s hard for modern generations to truly appreciate automation. Before the advent of computers and machinery working in sync to create products and provide services, each and every one of these tasks needed to be done by hand, mental agility, or both.
Don’t let the Luddites and others refusing to stop fawning over an idyllic past full of jobs fool you – things were not better when humans were the ones responsible for virtually every gear of business turning at any given time. Highlighting this is the diminished role of the salesman in society.
Once a critical component of nearly any enterprise where a product or service was to be immediate, eventually, or routinely provided, the salesman is rarely seen anymore. Unless shopping for a car or other big-ticket item, it’s unlikely a consumer today will encounter a salesman at all. And even in these instances, it’s not unusual for many of the salesman tricks of the trade to be essentially outsourced to automation.
In fact, most of us encounter examples of automated salesman tactics on a daily basis and don’t even realize it.
A talented salesman in years past was able to discern one type of customer from another with little more than an up-and-down glance. Combining this with a mental catalog of products he was selling, the skilled salesman would make recommendations to the right consumer to make the sale.
Companies don’t need this kind of human talent any more thanks to automation. Online product recommendations and suggestions – determined by a variety of data points including search history, prior purchase history, demographics etc. – are as accurate if not more so than the seasoned salesmen of decades past.
Being told “no” over and over again is tough for just about anybody, making sales a career traditionally suited for thick-skinned individuals. The ability to refuse to take “no” for an answer without pushing the back-and-forth over the brink into harassment was a skill which took 1000s of hours of practice to refine. A salesman would call it persistence, but unfazed consumers could probably call it a few other things instead.
These days, this mechanism of sales is mostly achieved via email reminders and other automatic means. Rather than make a call to that guy who looked at the washer and dryer set a few weeks back, a promo text message is sent instead.
One of the more iconic and not missed aspects of classic sales was the upsell. It wasn’t enough to buy a new stereo – the stereo store wanted to talk you into headphones, amplifier, etc.
These days, such proposed upsells grab our attention in the form of suggested add-ons at checkout. Whether due to the data from prior purchase history or that of others who bought the same product (or both) recommended upgrades and extras are casually mentioned rather than forced down the consumer’s throat at the register.
One of the more nuanced aspects of successful sales in years past was the ability (or gall as some would say) to pitch a price quote to a customer based on their perceived income level. Why not tack on a little extra if the fella can afford to pay it? Likewise, it’s better to get something out of a more blue collar type than nothing at all.
These days, this strategy is being utilized by the likes of Amazon, who will sell products at varying prices to different consumers. It’s determined by an algorithm essentially able to predict what someone would spend on a particular item. Does it work? Amazon hasn’t stopped putting it to use, so what does that say?
Lastly, gone are the days when a salesman took the time to know your name. Heck, it may have been the case that by the end of a 15-minute conversation on the showroom floor, the salesman knew how old your kids were, your wife’s name, and more importantly committed it to memory for a more personalized pitch down the line.
Automation does all of this now, and in fact, has been doing so for awhile. Being addressed by first name in emails, texts, letters, etc written by companies interested in making us customers is the result of routine computer work. At no point is there a human being on the other side considering your existence, even for a moment.
Hmm. Maybe there is something to that idyllic past after all?
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