You may have heard about Watson, who will soon be appearing as a contestant on Jeopardy!
Watson should be a formidable competitor. He’s a know-it-all. And he’s quick on the buzzer. All of which you’d expect from a computer.
But the folks over at IBM who built Watson are excited for another reason. They say what makes him special is his understanding of nuance. Some of those clues on Jeopardy can be pretty subtle. They’re not just facts and figures – they involve puns, humor and misdirection.
If a computer can figure all that out, it would probably be good at identifying customer needs, too. Which raises an awkward question: Could a computer eventually do your job?
Guess what – it’s already happened to some of your colleagues. According the Census Bureau, online sales are still relatively small – representing less than 4% of all sales. But they’re growing at about 10% a year. And if you think your company wouldn’t love to replace its expensive sales force with an online store where customers can create their own solutions, you’re kidding yourself.
So why do they pay you all that money, anyway?
One of the most important reasons, I would suggest, is because they’re also terrified of commoditization. Once you’ve taken the human element out of the sale, it all comes down to things that a computer — or competitor — could replicate: features, benefits, delivery, and so on. Long term, that’s a losing strategy.
Often, the only thing standing between a company and commoditization are salespeople — their empathy with customers; their insight into buyer’s needs; their hustle and enthusiasm; their ability to create momentum and get buyers to trust them. You are the differentiator, and that’s what makes you worth the big bucks.
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