There’s a lot of excitement from sellers about the power of AI tools like ChatGPT, we can inflict infinite amounts of content on unsuspecting prospects. We can meet and exceed Gartner’s projection of 66 touches per meeting with all sorts of sequences that can be generated in a few minutes.
Sellers of all types are foaming at the mouth about how we leverage this tool to expand our outreach. My LinkedIn stream is filled with all sorts of “expert” advice for generating content through AI.
But these tools are not just for us in sales, marketing, customer experience? Think of the power available to buyers in leveraging these tools to help them think about their buying process. Think about how this tool might displace the need for sellers trying to sell, enabling more buyers to choose rep free buying experiences.
I actually tried leveraging this tool for a buying decision we are looking at within our own company. We are exploring a couple of software technologies to help improve our productivity. I went into ChatGPT posing a series of questions. Things like, “What should we be thinking of when we are looking for this kind of solution? What questions should we be asking ourselves and the vendors we are considering? Where could we go wrong? How do we manage the risks?”
I was pleasantly surprised by the responses provided by the tool. While none of the responses was surprising, none were particularly unique observations, and none were able to address the specific issues our company is facing and what we are trying to do; the responses helped us clarify some of our thinking. It wasn’t new, but it was presented in a way that was more helpful than we were thinking of it. It also helped confirm we are looking at right issues (though I am still concerned that ChatGPTs responses may be limited by our ability to ask the right questions.
What our team found most useful in our brief foray into leveraging this tool to help us with a buying decision, was not the answers it gave us, but the questions and issues it suggested we consider.
We pushed it further. We are interested in the solutions from two different vendors. We asked ChatGPT, for the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor and their specific solutions. At that point it broke down. Currently, it’s limited in it’s ability to look at specific alternatives, making recommendations. But I suspect that’s something that will be coming?
As we look at tools that are currently available to buyers–anything from simple search, recommendation engines, to more sophisticated tools like ChatGPT, we have to think differently about how we appear digitally, and how we engage our customers.
In the short term, most sellers aren’t very helpful to customers. We continue to focus on presenting our products, but we don’t help them think about what they should be looking for, questions they should be asking, and so forth. I suspect, within weeks, we will start seeing more customers educating themselves about these issues through tools like ChatGPT,
Over the longer term, as these tools develop and as they have open access to the web, we can expect they will be making vendor recommendations. We can expect these tools to filter the quantity of information that currently overwhelms customers. These tools will help guide the customers through the issues. Inevitably shaping their thinking.
We have to begin rethinking our whole engagement strategies–both digital and with human selling interventions. We need to assume buyers will, increasingly, leverage tools like this to help them in their problem solving and buying processes. And we need to assume buyers will be exploiting these tools as much as possible (they already are going down this path).
- What does this mean for our digital engagement strategies?
- Where do sellers contribute in ways that are different from what these tools provide?
We have to recognize and help our customer recognize the limitations of these tools—and we have to fill those gaps! Currently, there are great limitations in understanding “good/bad” decisions. The tools can’t understand specific contexts, which change across buyers and within the buying cycle? They can’t understand the human emotions that are involved in making these decisions. So often, it’s less about the facts of the decisions and more about how the decisions make buyers feel.
It will be a long time, if ever, that these tools will displace sales people in complex B2B buying decisions. But they will play an increasingly important role and we have to design our engagement strategies with this in mind.
There is a lot of excitement about how sellers exploit these tools.
But the most important question we must be considering is how buyers exploit these tools!
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