Why Robots Won’t Take Sales Managers’ Jobs

31 July 2018


Technology can automate routine tasks or data analysis well. But technology alone isn’t so great at acting on those findings.

Harvard Business Review recently discussed skills that aren’t automatable anytime soon. One thing I noticed when looking over this list is that all seven of these skills are characteristic of top sales managers and other sales leadership professionals. Our capacity for complex thought and understanding subtleties beat the computers in situations that aren’t perfectly black and white, situations that sales managers face on a regular basis.

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics covered in the article.

Communication, content, context, (emotional) competence: All four of the C-skills are essential skills for sales managers; in fact, these skills are the most important ones of all. After all, many sales managers were formerly sales reps themselves. This occupation requires knowing the buyer and their needs at that particular time, as well as understanding the buyer’s deeper needs and wants while selling. These skills carry over easily for sales managers, who must understand where their salespeople are struggling, why they’re struggling, and what can be done to get these salespeople back on their feet again.

Teaching: Considering sales managers are often responsible for training new salespeople and getting them up to speed, teaching is indispensable for sales managers. Technology can help train salespeople and even customize the individual salesperson’s training experience, but humans are creating the material to be taught and providing the practical experience.

An ethical compass: You may have heard about humans training Microsoft’s chatbot to be a racist jerk. While humans can train computers to do anything, humans are the ones directing the training and therefore must do so with the right thing in mind. Many sales management situations are complicated. The sales manager must do what’s right not just for the organization’s profits, but what’s right for their salespeople, and for potential buyers of the product.

This leads to a question every sales manager should be asking: how are you providing value to the organization? If the bulk of your value does not come from the above traits, then you better start developing these skills now before the robots come knocking. If most of your value is based around skills like communication and an ethical compass, then you’re not in danger of a robot takeover anytime soon. Even if you do move on from sales management (or get promoted), the skills you’ve already developed will serve you well in the future.

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