AI vs. Salespeople: Trust, Empathy, and Leadership Insights
As a leader, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of AI tools promising to do everything but shake your buyer’s hand. However, in B2B sales leadership, striking the right balance between AI-driven efficiency and authentic human connections is critical for your success. Let’s look at some AI leadership insights.
Let’s consider two seemingly conflicting statistics: First, 83% of B2B buyers prefer digital purchasing methods (Gartner). Second, psychological factors like authenticity, empathy, and connection are as vital to buyers as saving time and money (Harvard Business Review).
How should you respond as a leader to this data?
Here are three potential responses:
- Go “All-in” on Digital: Embrace the digital experience and minimize human interaction.
- Enhance Authenticity: Recognize the significance of addressing psychological needs through human connections, especially in complex B2B sales, and prioritize them in your sales approach.
- Find a Balance: Perhaps a combination of the two approaches is the best course of action.
Balancing Act. Digital channels may excel in efficiency, but they cannot yet replace the human touch and the need for connection. Remember the early days of the pandemic when virtual meetings became our lifelines? Even our most stoic customers were delighted to see us on their screens! In a world filled with AI-generated content, sales and service bots and deepfakes, genuine human connection has increased in value.
To succeed in B2B sales, organizations must strike a balance between AI strategies and building authentic interpersonal relationships. This starts with a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of both AI and your sales team regarding meeting the psychological needs of buyers.
AI vs. Salespeople: Trust
Trust hinges on competency, integrity, and goodwill. AI may excel in competence, but there are a lot of concerns regarding its integrity and intentions. Human sellers, on the other hand, are pretty good judges of character. Once a salesperson passes this test, it opens the door for trust. Of course, trust isn’t automatically granted to humans; it can be lost in any number of ways, like through a lack of transparency, incongruence, or unclear motives. But many cues that build trust, such as eye contact and authenticity, are strictly human and AI’s attempts to mimic these behaviors often backfire, destroying credibility and leaving buyers feeling betrayed or tricked.
While AI aids data analysis, salespeople have the opportunity to become trusted advisors, offering guidance and a human perspective during the buying journey. Trusted advisors can often supersede AI recommendations. Think of it like Netflix suggesting a show, but someone you trust advising against it. Whose advice would you follow?
AI vs. Salespeople: Empathy
Humans can relate to each other through shared experiences, fulfilling the fundamental human need to feel understood. AI can detect some emotional signals but struggles with the nuances of human behavior. Empathy is a uniquely human trait, and being consoled by a bot is far from emotionally satisfying.
As AI continues to infiltrate our lives, the need for human connection and authenticity will intensify. However, most seller’s ability to connect with buyers in-person is far superior to their ability to connect with them virtually. Why? They’ve had a lifetime of practice with face-to-face interactions, whereas virtual authenticity is still in its infancy.
Enhancing Virtual Authenticity
When virtual sellers lack the qualities that foster human connection and confidence in buyers, they risk being replaced by AI and digital experiences. Why can’t sellers convey these qualities on video as effectively as in person? Often, it’s due to a lack of awareness of how the camera distorts or misses cues, or how the salesperson misreads or responds to those cues. It can also result from virtual behaviors that diminish credibility or empathy, like avoiding eye contact, reading from a script, insufficient emotional expression, or distracting on-camera actions.
To address this challenge, sellers desperately need to be able to communicate with the same authenticity and effectiveness in virtual settings as they do in face-to-face interactions. As AI’s influence grows, so will the demand for human connection and authenticity in sales. Balance the equation in your favor by empowering your team with the virtual communication and presence skills they need to succeed.
Learn More About Developing Your Team’s Virtual Authenticity and Presence!