Why You Can’t Automate High-Stakes Selling

computerpeopleWhat’s the one thing computers will never do better than salespeople?

Computers do many things more effectively and efficiently than humans can, but outside of a few terrifying science-fiction movies, there’s still one thing they can’t do: think for themselves.

Yes, I know a computer named Watson won the Jeopardy challenge in 2011. But thinking takes a lot more than memorizing and regurgitating facts. While technology is great for storing, aggregating, and—to some degree—interpreting information, it can’t have conversations, ask insightful questions, or draw wisdom from experience…at least not yet.

That’s why all the sales and marketing automation tools in the world will never replace the power of a knowledgeable, experienced salesperson with a great referral network.

Smarter than the Average Algorithm

The problem is, we get so enamored with technology that we forget it’s only a tool to make human beings more effective. Computers might be better at math, but they don’t come close to what the human brain has to offer in terms of creativity and innovation.

Walter Isaacson, CEO at Aspen Institute and Steve Jobs’ biographer, examines the relationship between man and machine in his masterful article: “The One Thing Computers Will Never Be Able to Do.” He writes:

We humans can remain relevant in an era of cognitive computing because we are able to think different, something that an algorithm, almost by definition, can’t master. We possess an imagination that, as Ada Lovelace said, “brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions in new, original, endless, ever-varying combinations.” We discern patterns and appreciate their beauty. We weave information into narratives. We are storytelling animals as well as social ones. (Read the rest of the article.)

Isaacson goes on to explain how great thinkers—such as Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, and Mozart—understood the symbiosis between beauty and science, between art and innovation. As he puts it, “The most creative innovations of the digital age came from those who were able to connect the arts and sciences.”

What Does This Mean for Salespeople?

Winning in today’s business world means leveraging technology and also learning how to keep it in its place. Don’t forget that technology is only a tool and that our greatest sales asset is—and always will be—ourselves.

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Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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