If you’re interested in the future of job automation, you may have heard Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures predict that within the next two decades, 95% of salespeople will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). While that might sound like a bold claim, there is growing evidence to support it.
In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, companies are finding innovative ways to automate tasks that were previously thought to be reserved for human workers. The disruption caused by companies like Uber and Tesla in the transportation industry is just the beginning. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, customer service representatives, and even salespeople are being transformed into lines of code.
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software market, currently valued at around $25 billion a year, is projected to reach over $40 billion in annual spend by 2019. This growth has ignited a fierce battle between industry heavyweights Microsoft, Salesforce, and Oracle, who have collectively invested close to $40 billion in CRM-related acquisitions in the past two months alone.
CEOs across industries recognize the importance of leveraging the vast amounts of customer data being uploaded to the cloud every year. A comprehensive understanding of customers, often referred to as a “customer 360,” is considered a key driver of business success. As a result, the CRM industry is undergoing a transformation that will impact the customer journey and the roles of sales professionals.
While the automation of sales may seem far-fetched, consider the rapid progress made in other fields. Uber, for example, was founded just seven years ago and is already planning to roll out fully autonomous vehicles. Given the exponential pace of technological advancement and the decreasing cost of compute power, it is not unreasonable to expect that 95% of salespeople will be replaced by lines of code within the next 20 years.
The attractiveness of automating sales roles lies in the economic benefits. Replacing drivers with autonomous vehicles requires significant regulatory changes and massive capital investments. In contrast, replacing salespeople is relatively easy and politically acceptable. Sales is often seen as a reviled profession, making it a prime target for automation. The upfront investment for companies looking to replace sales teams with robots is minimal compared to the potential cost savings and increased productivity.
Despite concerns about the relationship-driven nature of sales, replicable patterns of interactions and relationship-building are prevalent in many successful deals. With the automation of buying processes and the increasing role of technologies like blockchain, McKinsey estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with companies without interacting with humans. In the retail industry alone, 53% of sales activities are considered automatable.
The question then becomes, which company will build the winning platform for sales automation? While Google and Facebook are vying for advertising revenue, leaving Microsoft and Salesforce as the frontrunners in the CRM market, the focus of this article will be on these two companies.
Salesforce has been making headlines with its vision for the future of CRM, known as Salesforce Einstein. This vision revolves around the integration of artificial intelligence into every aspect of customer interaction and record-keeping. By leveraging AI, salespeople can optimize their sales strategies and maximize revenue. However, Microsoft has been pioneering AI integration into its products for over two years, with Xiaoice and Azure Cognitive Services being standout examples.
Microsoft’s advantage lies in its extensive research and development capabilities. With over 1,000 researchers in various fields, including deep learning, Microsoft Research is at the forefront of AI innovation. Moreover, Microsoft already offers several AI-powered products, such as Opportunity Scoring for Dynamics CRM, Azure Machine Learning, and Cortana, which are transforming the way businesses approach sales and customer relationship management.
In addition to its internal expertise, Microsoft has been acquiring AI-focused companies like SwiftKey, Wand Labs, and Genee. Furthermore, Microsoft’s access to vast amounts of data from billions of devices, Bing Search, and 450 million LinkedIn profiles gives it an edge over competitors like Salesforce.
While both Salesforce and Microsoft are striving to lead the way in AI-powered CRM, Microsoft’s robust AI capabilities, extensive resources, and data advantage make it a strong contender. Salesforce’s recent acquisitions and developments show promise, but Microsoft’s long-standing commitment to AI research and development gives it a significant advantage.
In conclusion, the future of sales is likely to be driven by AI. Microsoft and Salesforce are at the forefront of this transformation, but Microsoft’s research capabilities, product offerings, and data advantage position it as a leader in the field. As automation continues to revolutionize various industries, it’s only a matter of time before sales roles are primarily automated. Prepare for a future where lines of code replace salespeople, and AI becomes an integral part of the customer journey.