Sales leaders need to recognize, prioritize and respond to seven technology disruptions that will transform sales over the next five years, according to Gartner, Inc. They include: generative artificial intelligence (AI), digital twin of the customer, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), machine customers, digital humans, emotion AI and multimodality.
“Technology is taking on an even more central role in the sales process, and chief sales officers (CSOs) need to get ahead of a series of innovations that will significantly disrupt sales strategy, engagement, pricing and enablement,” said Noah Elkin, VP Team Manager in the Gartner Sales practice.
“For example, businesses are already seeing the impact of AI in many of the technology solutions they use, but generative AI in particular will be a breakthrough that will help scale sales content and engagement. AR and VR will likewise emerge as a key sales mechanism, and the advent of machine customers is expected to create an entirely new target market for sales organizations.”
Elkin outlined the seven key disruptions that executives need to prepare for in the next five years:
Machine customers are non-human economic actors that obtain goods or services in exchange for payment. For many organizations, the idea of selling to machine customers is not yet a reality, but now is the time to start planning for the eventuality. Sales leaders should begin developing sales forces that can effectively navigate the challenges of human, machine and hybrid selling environments.
Gartner research shows CEOs and CIOs believe one-fifth of their total revenue could come from machine customers by 2030.
“When machine customers become a more tangible part of the buyer mix, sales organizations will need to plan for ensuing enablement issues, such as managing an increasing volume and velocity of customer data and preparing both human and digital sellers to sell to machines,” said Elkin.
Generative AI learns from existing content artifacts to generate new, realistic artifacts that reflect the characteristics of the training data, but do not repeat it. Generative AI can produce a variety of novel content such as images, video, music, speech, text, software code and product designs. By 2025, 30% of outbound messages from large organizations will be synthetically generated.
“Generative AI means sales teams will never have to beg for content again,” said Elkin.
Digital Twin of the Customer
The digital twin of the customer is a dynamic virtual representation of a customer. It ingests data from personas and runs tests for sales messaging, sales processes and marketing campaigns to predict what does and doesn’t work for that customer. The market for digital twin enabling software and services is expected to reach $150 billion worldwide by 2030, up from $9 billion in 2022.
By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels, which means sales organizations need to actively look for new ways to engage with customers. The AR/VR experience, in particular, will be integral as the metaverse ramps up, and B2B buying and selling becomes almost exclusively digital. In the next five years, AR/VR could be a critical sales channel to use in sales meetings, product demonstrations and sales training.
Digital humans are interactive, AI-driven representations that exhibit some of the characteristics, personality, knowledge, and mindset of a human. By 2026, half of B2B buyers will interact with a digital human in a buying cycle. Digital humans will take on tasks that humans don’t want to do, such as handling lead nurturing, old opportunities or leads that went nowhere.
“The digital human economy is going to revolutionize the composition of traditional sales teams and grow to become a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Elkin.
Emotion AI technology can help by disrupting sellers’ empathic ability and alter buyer engagement. It’s a system that analyzes, processes, and responds to user emotion.
By 2024, AI identification of emotions will influence roughly half of the online ads buyers see. It will be able to read faces and emails, and determine which ads are going to work on a given buyer.
Multimodality means that there will be multiple modes for sellers to log activities, helping sales leaders to address data challenges. By 2025, 70% of all B2B seller-buyer interactions will be recorded to extract competitive, deal and market insights using AI, machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP).
Gartner clients can read more in “7 Technology Disruptions Affecting Sales Through 2027.”
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement.