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What Do Uber Drivers And SDRs Have In Common?

by David Brock on July 21st, 2019

Think of this post more as a thought experiment or even a wild ass prognistication.

What do Uber drivers and SDRs have in common?

Let’s look at Uber first. Uber has made it very clear, autonomous vehicles are their future. There are a lot of reasons for this. Autonomous vehicles eliminate much of one of Uber’s biggest challenges: Consistency of customer experience.

Even though Uber tries very hard to create a great customer experience, the majority of it is influenced by the drivers. I’ve been fortunate, in the hundreds of Uber rides I’ve had, fewer than a handful have been bad, but all it takes is one bad experience to get someone to think of doing something else or going somewhere else.

There are a number of other benefits to leveraging autonomous vehicles, including some powerful financial reporting/EBITDA benefits–which influence share price.

Drivers are important to Uber’s plan to eliminate (or minimize) them. Without drivers, Uber’s business model never would have been tested. Uber has learned so much from it’s experience with drivers, they collect and analyze data from every ride and interaction. And it’s enabled them to launch and build a huge revenue generating machine. It’s

All this learning, all this data, all this experience is critical to Uber in leveraging and delivering it’s services through autonomous vehicles. Without the drivers, Uber could not have learned these things.

But Uber’s plan is to eliminate drivers.

SDRs, in most cases, are the sales equivalent of Uber drivers. Like Uber, we have the convergence of technology, and new ways of engaging customers that will drive massive change to our customer engagement models.

For the last decade, we have leveraged SDRs in how to effectively engage customers in their buying process. Through both success and failure, through SDRs we are learning the types of situations, the types of solutions, the types of customers, the types of buying processes, what parts of the buying process and so forth. We are learning and refining where they best fit.

We also are learning what they need to do to achieve our goals with these customers and buying journeys where we can effectively leverage SDRs. We have millions of hours of call recordings we can analyze, we have AI systems and terabytes of conversational intelligence data that can help us understand the patterns of success, and instruct us, in real time, what we might say or do. We have new voice technologies (for example Google Duplex), that can engage in very natural conversations with customers. We’ve even gotten customers “acclimated” to SDR conversations, in many cases finding them very useful.

But we have a huge problem with SDRs, it’s the consistency of the customer experience in the buying process. The “human factor” in driving inconsistent execution and performance is a challenge for those situations where SDRs work really well.

But like autonomous vehicles, the new technologies I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, give us the opportunity to displace SDRs with machine generated interactions. We can eliminate the human variability in those situations where SDRs really work. In doing so, we might create much better customer experience, and much greater consistency in sales execution/performance.

This isn’t wild conjecture, it’s a freight train going 100 mph (Or 160.9 kph) right at us. We’ve already seen a large portion of order entry moving to web-based entry, we are seeing chatbots taking huge parts of the customer service and sales process. Personally, the only reason I need access to a local bank branch is to get to my safe deposit box. Virtually all my other personal and business banking needs I can handle through web or ATM interactions–and I get a better customer experience.

The past 10 years has been a relentless drive to mechanizing as much of the selling process as we can. And there are lot of areas where, in fact, we can and should mechanize that process. Many SDRs and certain other categories of sales people are the Uber drivers for sales. They are critical to our future, but it’s a future that doesn’t include most of them.

However, the future is bright for sales and sales people. This frees up sales resources for those situations where sales people create the greatest value–dealing with the dynamics of complexity and human trying to make sense of what they face.

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4 Comments
  1. Joel Lyles permalink

    Hi Dave!

    Your article hit the mark. I was struggling with an analogy to describe what I think is happening with the SDR long-term, but your comparison with Uber hits the mark. The idea of a job role intentionally designed to obsolete itself by being successful is really counter-intuitive and I’m glad you were able to bridge the gap.

    I wrote a bit about why the process was happening and what it would look like here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fellow-sdrs-our-days-numbered-joel-lyles/. However, your article is better because it frames the oncoming SDR obsolescence in terms of operational success, not unprofitability. Which I think is a more original and interesting point than mine.

  2. Dave;

    You might find this article about the history of electric cars interesting. I know I did.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/29/was-the-automotive-era-a-terrible-mistake?

    Probably help you refine your metaphor between self-driving cars/sales reps, too.

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