With Advent of Impersonal AI-Driven World, Printing Industry Sales Success Requires Authenticity, Empathy
A man in China receives a WeChat video call from a friend. In a live conversation, the friend says he has wired $600,000 to the man’s account and wants his help bidding on a project. The caller holds up a screenshot of the transaction receipt and asks the man to forward the money to a provided bank account. The call took 10 minutes. Turns out, the entire video image and conversation were AI-generated. It was a scam.
The world is becoming more robotic and less personal. Behaviors are being predicted. As consumers, we must be on guard, lest we get fooled or swindled. As salespeople, we need to go the opposite direction and be more personal than ever. It is an increasingly important differentiator, and one of the best ways to build customer loyalty.
It’s also a way to avoid being replaced as a sales rep (or, in my case, a columnist/blogger). Customers need to feel that personal connection in what we say and what we write or post. But, as proven in the example above, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more sophisticated, blurring the lines between authenticity and disinformation.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I can’t be fooled,” or “I could tell the difference,” or “I will never be replaced by AI.” As a writer, I think that way, too. An AI-generated column would result in a boring read and people would know the difference immediately. That’s why I try to take my own advice and make my material as personal as possible — both here and on LinkedIn.
But AI could offer an innovative approach to crafting compelling sales content. By leveraging AI, writers could tap into its vast potential to generate persuasive and tailored content that resonates with their target audience. AI-powered algorithms could analyze extensive customer data, market trends, and consumer preferences to extract valuable insights, enabling the creation of personalized and data-driven sales narratives.
Furthermore, AI could optimize language, tone, and structure to create engaging and impactful columns, drawing upon its ability to understand context and sentiment. Through this symbiotic collaboration between humans and AI, sales columns could be elevated to new heights, delivering captivating content that captures attention, drives conversions, and ultimately enhances business success.
While AI holds great promise in various fields, its impersonal nature is a notable aspect. Due to its reliance on algorithms and data analysis, AI lacks the human touch and emotional connection that personal interactions bring. AI may efficiently process and provide information, but it often falls short in understanding complex emotions or empathizing with individuals.
Its responses can feel mechanical and detached, failing to address the deeper nuances of human experiences. Furthermore, AI’s lack of personal context can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations, potentially diminishing the quality of interactions. As we embrace AI, it is crucial to recognize its limitations, and find ways to balance its efficiency with the importance of human connection and empathy.
But you’d know the difference between genuine and AI-created content, right? Well, take a second to ponder those last two paragraphs. The first one talks about how AI can be used to write a sales column. The second paragraph covers the faults and impersonal nature of doing just that.
Can you tell which one was generated by ChatGPT? The answer is, both of them! I simply made two requests and out came 100 words on each subject. Voila! Still think you can’t be fooled?
The Human Touch
Now, if you are perusing my column rather than reading every word, the stark difference between those two paragraphs and the first two probably didn’t register. But now that you know, look back — the difference screams out at you. AI has no way to infuse a Printing Impressions column with personal experiences or anecdotes from a more than 40-year sales career that livens up a sales topic in 1,200 words or less. It can’t inject witty banter. It can’t add a subtle Monty Python reference. Only a human can do that.
Where are your opportunities to get personal? LinkedIn. There, you have the chance to infuse your posts with personality and send a message that says, “You want to buy from me!” Strive to be interesting and relevant. Rather than selecting a canned response at the bottom of a birthday notification, you can send a personal message or even — gasp — pick up the phone and make a call.
Similarly, when reading what others have posted on their LinkedIn accounts, rather than clicking “Like,” you could add a comment or a question. All of these actions work — even if in just a small way — to help build your brand and show your personality.
Many of us don’t know what to post on LinkedIn. I recommend making it personal to you. What do you find interesting? When an interviewer asked Looney Tunes directors Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng whether they wrote for children or adults, they responded, “Neither. We wrote for ourselves. The fact that others found it entertaining was coincidental.”
No matter whether you are an extravert or an introvert, you have a market and will connect with like-minded individuals. Be you. Write about your experience. Write about your customers. Share articles regarding trends. All of it will find its audience. Your audience.
People Root for the Underdog
But what if you’re just starting out and you don’t have experiences to share? What if you don’t have any customers? I currently have two Sales Vault clients who fit that description, and I’ve given both the same advice: You are young, green, and new to sales. So, write about that! Create some posts about the challenges of starting a career in sales. Share the frustrations, the victories, and even the terror. Everyone loves an underdog story. People will root for you.
When the pandemic first hit, everyone’s print business plummeted. But a sales rep from Dallas told me she had a record year in 2020. A record year! I asked her how that was and she said, “The first thing I did after the world shut down was to call all of my clients and say, ‘We are here for you.’ Then, I checked in frequently and was first in line to sell signage and whatever else they needed in order to cope with the new realities of COVID. For me, it was personal.”
The very definition of differentiation is to go left when everyone else is going right. Today, the world is going AI. Transactions are faceless. With a swipe you can buy something or meet someone. Be different. Make it personal. Inject authenticity. Pick up the phone and, at minimum, call three customers a day. Send birthday cards. Thank customers for orders. Be a good listener.
Connect with everyone — from the person who hands you your coffee in the morning, to the receptionist who answers the phone when you call. Do it right, and you will be rich in every sense of the word.
Bill Farquharson is a respected industry expert and highly sought after speaker known for his energetic and entertaining presentations. Bill engages his audiences with wit and wisdom earned as a 40-year print sales veteran while teaching new ideas for solving classic sales challenges. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault, are available at salesvault.pro.