What does the future of artificial intelligence (AI) mean for the sales profession? With all the talk about disruptors, rapid technological advancement and shifting modes of communication, I’ll admit I have worried where a sales trainer and coach like me best serves others in the digital world.

My first introduction to the power of artificial intelligence came from movies like Terminator and The Matrix. As both movies were designed to heighten our fear of the future run by machines, it is easy for me to imagine worst-case scenarios.

The opposing extreme view is that no change will occur and sales will remain as it has always been – a people business.

I believe our future reality lies somewhere in the middle.

Over the past 18 years in the financial services industry, I have seen how sales has shifted. From the traditional product-based selling through a wide range of models including solutions-based, needs-based, values-based, goals-based, consultative selling, challenger selling, and insight selling. The sales evolution is well underway, so we cannot expect anything we do today will stay the same in the future.

Daniel Pink, author of “To Sell is Human”, notes that sales has changed more in that last ten years than it did in the previous 100 years! If this rate of change continues, how will sales be impacted by the introduction of AI?

I recently read Randy Gage’s book “Mad Genius”, and his description of AI in the future really struck a chord for me.

“As computers evolve, the operations they perform and the responses they give will seem more and more human.  Many people will find what computers offer to be more appealing than what humans can offer in many different scenarios.”

What does this mean for professionals who serve clients through direct interactions? What will be needed to stand out beyond the seemingly human responses of computers?

It comes down to three fundamental truths:

1. Humans crave human connection. We thrive on the energy created when we are in the presence of other human beings.  I have observed the dramatic difference in energy myself between time on my computer and time with other people. I see the difference in energy for my kids – one hour online versus an hour playing with a friend.  There is no doubt of our need to be with and connect with people.

What are you doing to connect with your clients? What experience are you providing for them?  How do they feel when they come to meet with you? What do they feel when they leave?

2. Humans want to feel empowered. Empowerment comes from having a sense of choice and control.  When we don’t see any choices or feel a sense of control, our old reptilian brains kick in with our “fight, flight or freeze” instinct.

How do you empower your clients? What aspects of the relationship do they control? What space do you create for them to make choices?

3. Humans want to feel understood. This is deeper than listening.  It is more than asking powerful questions.  Think of a time when you were with someone who really made you feel that you were heard and understood.  What characteristics did that person have? If you find it hard to identify a time, you are not alone.  It is a rare gift to feel that you are truly heard and understood.

What do you do to show you truly hear your clients? How do you ensure that they feel truly understood?

In a rapidly changing world where solutions are commoditized, services are automated, and knowledge is readily accessible, what remains unique is the client experience with you. The human to human experience that deepens connection, empowerment and understanding.

What do you need to do to take it to the next level?