AI is increasingly becoming a natural addition to daily workflows across sales and revenue departments. 79% of sales professionals who use AI say AI tools are an important addition to their overall sales strategy, according to our State of AI survey.
Conversely, there are endless dilemmas about how AI will shape reality, raising serious concerns.
So, let’s explore what sales leaders think about AI-powered solutions and what they do to overcome AI fears.
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The Top 8 Concerns About Using AI
Of sales professionals, 57% think that most salespeople will use AI in their roles by 2024, according to HubSpot’s State of AI report.
On the other hand, only 6% think that AI is overhyped and useless. The same survey shows that 41% of salespeople believe their days are numbered due to AI automation, while only 21% think more positively.
But what brings about these AI concerns in sales? Here’s what salespeople have mentioned.
1. The Fear of Becoming Over-Reliant on AI Tools
AI can be addictive, and 39% of sales professionals are afraid of becoming over-reliant on AI tools. Though AI can reduce the number of low-level tasks, the sales industry will still need a human touch — with 60% of customers agreeing to it.
That being said, salespeople should have a wide range of skills to become successful, and AI is just an enhancer of their productivity, not a replacement. Furthermore, there should be a healthy balance between AI-generated and manual work so sales reps won’t become anxious when human expertise is required.
2. Lack of Accuracy
AI always relies on data. It uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to gather and process huge amounts of text or speech to build forecasts, analyze sentiment, or pinpoint insights from vast data sets. So, the risk that AI can pick up inaccurate data is always present.
This shows why around 25% of salespeople are skeptical about AI’s accuracy and think that AI-generated content still needs to be checked and verified by a human.
3. Privacy Issues and Data Breaches
Of sales professionals, 24% are concerned about possible privacy issues and data breaches that AI can pose. Since AI gathers and stores vast amounts of information, there could be data leakage without proper cybersecurity measures. Or worse, sensitive data might be presented as the output when using generative AI.
This is a major concern, and governments have already taken action to promote transparency and enable only ethical usage of AI.
Accordingly, Italy banned ChatGPT over privacy concerns in April, while the European Commission has already proposed a legal framework to take control of AI and monitor its use in the EU market. Once approved, it’ll become the first-ever rule on AI. As for the US, there is no federal privacy law yet.
4. Expensive Pricing
Of salespeople, 22% think that AI is expensive, while 28% of sales leaders reported AI tools had returned a negative ROI, according to a HubSpot study. Yes, you can access some free AI tools like ChatGPT, but costs can escalate rapidly if you want to go beyond the basics.
The thing is that more advanced AI technologies and custom solutions require hardware with a high level of computational power to run algorithms efficiently, like Nvidia GPUs (Graphic Processing Units). They’re used to run complex machine-learning tasks and start at around $10,000 for the most popular processor model A100.
So depending on the company size, hardware, software, or labor costs, be ready to spend from a few thousand bucks to several million dollars. This can be extremely expensive for startups and companies that are still in their early stages of development.
Think of Gong as an example. To harness the power of this sales intelligence platform, you’ve got to fork out around $29,000 yearly for 15 people in your sales team.
Bottom line: AI isn’t right for every sales team. It’s for companies that are invested in optimizing operations and see improved ROIs.
5. Lack of Integration
Of sales professionals, 16% mentioned that the lack of integration to existing systems/data is a major roadblock for them. Since it requires a solid understanding of current AI technologies, sales reps should also be trained on how to use AI, troubleshoot issues, and detect when AI is underperforming.
Also, when there’s a need to integrate AI with internal tools, the knowledge of a field specialist is required. Likewise, incorporating AI into your workflow can be much more than downloading software or signing up for a tool.
For open-source AI solutions, you should have the right resources, such as storage and infrastructure, before getting your hands on it.
6. Discrimination and Bias
Discrimination and biased information are other major AI concerns in sales. Today, 14% think that AI-generated content is biased. Since AI learns from data, it can perpetuate biases from inaccurate data sets.
When it comes to discrimination, things can go wild.
For example, a face recognition system can be trained to detect white faces more quickly than their darker counterparts. This happens because such data has been used in training more often and can lead to controversial issues, such as racial bias.
In the Real World
Back in 2015, Amazon used AI to collect resumes for hiring purposes. The company’s experimental hiring tool gave job candidates scores that ranged from 1 to 5. Soon it learned that female resumes had been automatically rejected.
By further investigating the issue, Amazon found that AI was trained to detect patterns from the resumes submitted over the last 10 years. Since most resumes came from men, AI followed the same pattern it was trained on.
7. Not Really Helpful
Of respondents, 12% think that AI is difficult and is not the right tool for them to achieve their desired goals. This is quite surprising since AI is booming and being used in many industries.
At the same time, it’s a clear indicator that AI still has room for improvement in simplicity and accessibility.
8. Outdated Information on Industry Trends
AI is undoubtedly revolutionizing the sales industry, but 7% of salespeople think they shouldn’t believe AI with closed eyes. It’s not uncommon that AI often gives outdated information that still needs to be validated by different sources.
Additionally, it doesn’t keep up with industry trends. The reason is that AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have been trained on outdated data from 2021 and 2022, so they can’t provide fresh stats/data. And OpenAI’s access to the live internet still fails to capture up-to-date information.
6 Tips for Addressing AI Fears
So, how does sales leadership address raised concerns and promote AI adoption across their revenue teams?
1. Help your sales team understand the potential benefits of AI.
Whenever you’re implementing AI technologies, be transparent and involve the sales team in the process. This will ensure that the sales team is on board and understands AI’s potential benefits. Explain the company’s objectives and identify the right use cases for AI.
Think of adopting Sylvia Farag’s interactive approach:
“Sales leaders are in a unique position to embrace the efficiencies AI will bring. It can cut down hours of research about a prospect’s business and what their priorities could be. Why not run a sales hackathon where the team uses AI to optimize as many of their processes as possible? Both leaders and reps will quickly realize that AI is simply a tool like any other in the sales process,” says Farag, Founder of Farag Consulting.
Bonus Tip: Looking to free up at least an hour/day? Watch the video below as HubSpot’s CMO and SVP of Marketing, Kipp Bodnar and Kieran Flanagan, share their list of the six best AI tools that save you over one hour a day and scale your business.
2. Set realistic expectations.
AI is not flawless and may require human intervention from time to time. As a sales leader, it’s critical to communicate this to your team and set realistic expectations.
You can also create measurable goals to track the success of your AI projects and conduct regular follow-up meetings to review the outputs. This will help you establish performance standards and hold your team accountable for how they use AI.
- Reduced response time to customer inquiries by 50% through the implementation of AI-powered chatbots for initial customer interactions in a given time period.
- Achieved a 20% improvement in sales pipeline velocity by leveraging AI-based predictive analytics.
- Increased revenue by 10% by using AI-powered sales recommendations and upselling/cross-selling strategies to drive customer lifetime value.
- Improved positive reply rates and open rates by 15% thanks to AI writing sales assistants like Lavender.
3. Create a collaborative culture between sales reps and AI.
As 39% of salespeople fear that technology will soon replace them and view AI as a serious threat to their job security, leadership should implement collaboration between sales reps and AI to maximize sales efficiency.
Salespeople should realize that AI will only enhance their workflow and automate tedious, repetitive tasks so they can focus more on selling and handling clients. They should be convinced that their roles are still in high demand.
“Most sales reps we talk to are concerned about AI taking their jobs at some point. But, as we tell them, ‘Humanity cannot yet be automated.’ AI is not yet sincerely empathetic or genuinely curious. In a business context, AI is not yet able to uncover needs the buyer doesn’t even know they have yet,” says Ariel Hitron, co-founder and CEO at Second Nature. “It’s not able to help prospects think creatively beyond their immediate needs — something that any good salesperson does intuitively.”
Leadership should also encourage sales teams to provide feedback and suggestions for improving AI systems, which will benefit everyone by creating a more effective working environment.
“AI is not yet able to forge and maintain real trust. What AI will be doing, however, is using AI-powered solutions to lay the foundations of trust and streamline the process of maintaining the trust that is key to augmenting revenues and ensuring repeat sales,” says Hitron.
Remember, many of your employees fear that AI will take their jobs. Instead, you have to lead the conversation on how their roles will evolve.
Russell Levy, Vice President, Product Management at ZoomInfo, shares an example: “My great uncle was a compositor for the Toronto Star. Every day, he physically and meticulously arranged each letter, one by one, on the printing press so they could print the paper. As the industry evolved to digital typesetting, his role evolved too, as he moved within the company and became a photo typesetter. He used technology to become more efficient.”
Levy says the same type of shift is happening in sales. AI can help teams become more efficient, changing the way they work for the better.
“We use AI to help us research companies, to help us write better emails, to help us present more thoroughly, and to help us analyze data more accurately. Advances in technology allow us to move from the rote and tedious work to the creative,” says Levy.
4. Set up specific guidelines to promote the ethical usage of AI.
Before you lead your team along an AI journey, create comprehensive guidelines that outline how your team should use these new tools. This will both set company-wide standards and help you address ethical concerns among your staff.
“Proceed with caution. If you’re going to allow salespeople to use available AI tools, set up a firm set of guidelines in which they must operate. And, of course, start small and learn as much as you can before beginning to scale,” says Justin Keller, vice president of revenue marketing at Drift.
AI can cause serious privacy concerns. As a sales leader, take proactive steps to promote the ethical usage of AI and set up guidelines that will prohibit your team from processing unauthorized data. Though regulations can vary from company to company, it’s best to prioritize security from the very beginning to avoid future data leaks.
“As a leader, you can create new machine learning techniques not susceptible to this threat to complete sales activity. Organizations can help their salespeople understand that AI augments sales staff. The time gained through the automation of standard sales tasks can be used to prospect and find new revenue,” says Dan Thomas, sales director at AIQuoter.
5. Partner with AI experts and upskill team members.
Since AI technology is complex, it’s important to partner with industry experts when implementing AI. They can evaluate your company’s needs, offer suitable AI solutions, provide the necessary guidance, and make the adoption process hassle-free.
This will allow you to unlock the full potential of AI and build a team that is confident and competent enough to embrace the benefits of AI.
6. Set up a qualitative framework to avoid bias.
How do you know if AI has made the wrong decision? If you’re not an AI expert, chances are high that you can’t evaluate its accuracy.
Consider chatbots. If the training data predominantly consists of interactions with a specific demographic or excludes certain customer segments, this bias can lead your team to mistrust and damage your revenue. Or worse, the chatbot may inadvertently show bias by providing preferential or inadequate support to certain customers.
To combat the issue, humans can review the chatbot’s responses to identify any biased patterns and provide corrective feedback. Also, you can train AI algorithms to flag potential bias based on linguistic patterns or biased correlations in the training data.
The takeaway: All stakeholders should think critically regarding bad AI decisions and react promptly, as the consequences can be catastrophic.
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Overcome AI fears and maximize AI benefits.
AI is booming, and there is no step back. This means you have to equip your sales team with the right resources and address the AI fears by creating a collaborative culture.