Incenteev sits down with Prof. Dr. Peter Gentsch, data scientist, management consultant and entrepreneur of diva-e Digital Value Excellence and DATAlovers AG, to discuss the current state and the future role of humans in sales business.
Incenteev: Mr. Gentsch, how can I imagine the salesperson of the future? To what extent do the current tasks differ from the activities of the future?
Peter Gentsch: Tomorrow’s sales representative should see AI not just as a threat, but as support. I can save time by delegating to AI to find out what my target group is, etc. Consequently, I will have more time to conduct the really important things, namely personal and empathic dialogue. On the negative side, I could theoretically digitize and automate the entire sales process. In my opinion, the sales representative of tomorrow should be supported by AI so that he can concentrate on what matters in customer dialogue in a much more intensive and sustainable manner.
Do you think that employees’ fears of losing their jobs are justified?
Absolutely. Sometimes this discussion is a bit romantic and naive because they say that they simply have to develop and train their employees in other areas. I believe
that everything that can be digitized will be digitized. Everything that can be networked will be networked, and everything that can be automated… will be automated. But sales also has a lot to do with tactics and strategy, with empathy, and emotion. And that cannot be replaced by AI.
What about the management level? Will the role of the sales manager change completely?
The higher you go in the hierarchy, the less it can be automated. Of course, you can also support decisions at a strategic level by generating automated market analysis and automatic competitive analysis, which help a sales executive to improve his sales strategies. I would not go as far as to say that AI can design a complete sales strategy today, but it provides valuable input to formulate, sustain, and manage a sales strategy.
How long will it take for AI to have an impact on personal relationships, especially as a consultant for managers in their relationships with their employees?
The current Maturity Level describes a so-called Narrow Intelligence. That means that each system
of Artificial Intelligence has very specific tasks. What humans are capable of doing well and what AI is not,
that is what we call General Intelligence: switching between different domains and drawing analogies. AI as a tool helps me to better assess and manage my employees in the organization. But that’s no substitute for the manager.
What is your tip for a company to start embracing AI as smoothly as possible?
We are experiencing a democratization of AI. That means I have a lot of opportunities to try AI. There is open data; I have data I can analyze, and I can implement tests with pilot customers. So, do not develop for years and see if the AI works. Instead, build prototypes for specific use cases, be it in sales or internal marketing, and get a feeling for where it works and where it does not.
In which direction will we head in the next 20 years?
I don’t know of any AI prognosis that ever came true. I like to take this example of AlphaGo, the AI which beat the world champion in chess. There were predictions that it would be about 50 to 100 years before an AI could do that. It only took two years.
Photos © Peter Gentsch