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Ethan Kopit
November 07, 2017

Will AI replace salespeople? No - quite the opposite.

The week before last I attended the annual meeting of the Association of Commercial Professionals - Life Sciences. Chuck Drucker (President of ACP-LS) opened the conference with a keynote on his theme for the year. This year’s theme: collaboration.


Chuck talked about all types of collaboration, but he spoke to one type we often overlook: Human - Machine collaboration. In particular, collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence.

Collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” I would add that effective collaboration is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something that neither could produce alone.”


How can a human and an artificial intelligence collaborate?

At a basic level, human-machine collaboration means establishing a common goal and allowing humans to do what we do best, and letting machines to do what they do best.

Humans excel at creative and abstract tasks. Deriving conclusions. Communicating value. Establishing trust and rapport. Computers are good at executing repetitive, computational tasks literally billions of times faster than a human. Plus, the more widespread use of machine learning made our computational tools more intelligent.

But, when we think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), most of us think about being replaced.

That’s pretty unlikely. 

AI will absolutely automate certain tasks...they’re just tasks that no one likes doing.


Humans and AI are working together in a number of industries, including medicine, genomic research, and (my personal favorite) sales.


Transcription, data-entry, and basic customer research are tasks that humans don’t like doing. As salespeople, we relegate these types of tasks to interns and assistants because our time can be better spent talking to customers!


As sales AI is more widely adopted, there won’t be any earth shattering changes. Systems will simply improve to maximize productivity. For example:

  • AI will suggest more qualified prospects to us
  • AI can perform basic customer research beforehand to help us have better conversations.
  • AI could suggest content that is most likely to resonate with a potential customer.

The bottom line is: AI (sales AI in particular) is not about replacing salespeople. It’s about making it easier to do our jobs more effectively.


It’s about people collaborating with machines to create customer relationships that neither was capable of creating on their own.


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