Could AI and Automation lead to a 4 day working week?

You will have all seen the headlines, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) a four day working week is achievable this century. TUC Head, Frances O’Grady, believes that advances in technology generally, and more specifically the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) automation paves the way for us to all enjoy not only a shorter working week, but also higher pay.

This statement has received both praise and criticism over the last week, with debates raging over whether such a move would boost productivity, improve working conditions and work-life balance, reduce unemployment, and improve the economy.

Serial entrepreneur Richard Branson has gone even further by suggesting that a 3 day work week could be the answer.

Looking to the future is one thing, and whilst the country seems divided in its opinion on a four day working week, I think what is really important is understanding and harnessing the benefits of technological advancements that are happening right now.

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly mastering tasks that until very recently were deemed off limits for machines. AI and machine learning applications are increasingly capable of performing activities traditionally handled by people, and in turn they are giving people back time, whether that be to take personal time off, allocate time for training and professional development, undertake charity work, or even just dedicate focus on the more creative, rewarding and engaging aspects of their jobs – being an overachiever.

Sellers may or may not get the dream of a four day working week within the next century, but AI can certainly help make their life easier today:

5 reasons why sellers must embrace advances in sales technology

  1. Improved performance and productivity

80% of results typically come from 20% of the people within of any sales team. The challenge is to encourage underperformers to behave like their top-performing peers, by providing them with the tools, resources and training they need to facilitate real behavioural change, and work effectively in the world we operate in today.

Advancements in sales technology are enabling greater insight, understanding and transparency of how sales teams are behaving and performing, as well as modelling how performance could be improved. AI and machine learning concepts provide an ideal set of techniques with which to analyse and model the actions and outcomes of the thousands of sellers in order to understand best practice and the behaviours that deliver the most successful outcomes.

If armed with a clear view of what patterns of sales-scenarios, people, products and human interactions represent the most likely successful outcomes it’s a relatively small step to also compute the opposite actions/inactions that typically correlate with failure. Proactive intervention can then occur by facilitating coaching or suggesting courses for self-development.

By figuring out the DNA of a sales team the opportunity exists to invert the 80:20 rule and facilitate the behaviour changes necessary to transform the middle majority into top performers.

  1. Better preparation

Sellers lose a significant part of every week searching for data, reviewing Google Alerts and scouring social media feeds for valuable insights. These are tasks that are ripe for automation.

Looking at the 80/20 principle again. Out of a hundred people in any sales team, maybe twenty do the right research before a meeting, but because the others are maybe time-poor or over-stretched, they might decide to wing it or take a quick look at LinkedIn in the lift just before the meeting. But smart technology now puts all the information for them on a plate.

Machines can swallow vast amounts of data in real time, far beyond the capabilities of manual processing. Using natural language processing and big data algorithms, tools (such as Artesian) can collect, rationalise, organise and deliver instant access to the highest-value information and direct how best to act on it. This reduces the likelihood that sellers turn up to a meeting unprepared, miss a valuable business moment or engagement opportunity, make a mistake, not respond to a customer need, or fail to predict a market trend that could open new doors.

  1. More time dedicated to the customer

A McKinsey Global Institute study found that 40% of time spent on sales work activities can be automated. If almost half of a sellers day is freed up by harnessing AI to automate tasks such as finding qualified leads, uncovering triggers and buying signals, processing transactions and other mundane tasks, the positive knock on effect is that they will have more time to spend focusing on relationships and nurturing their most profitable customers.

But more than simply taking over thankless, repetitive or laborious tasks, it offers sellers the potential to take their skills to the next level. AI offers the ability to dig deeper than ever before into data, it constantly analyses news reports, public financial and corporate information, social media and so on and delivers the intelligence and insight needed to improve real-time understanding of the customer and what’s driving them at any given moment. Likewise it can help uncover new ways to solve problems and add value, keep a finger firmly on the pulse of market trends, stay alive to new opportunities, and get even closer to customers.

  1. Saving time

Saving time is perhaps the big one in light of the current 4 day week debate. Sellers have to undertake a lot of administration and research to build an accurate view of their pipeline, update CRM systems and prioritise what deal they need to be working on. But sales managers don’t want their sales people wasting their time doing administrative tasks when they should be out selling, closing deals, building relationships and generating revenue. This is where AI can enhance the life of sellers by giving them more time to stay focused on the important human interactions.

By taking advantage of advanced sales tools, sellers can more quickly and efficiently build prospect lists and find information about the companies they wish to target, industry sectors, financial records and of course the people who work inside them, as well as their sentiments, opinions and motivations – all in one consolidated view. These tools can also prioritise high potential insights from both structured and unstructured data to save time by helping sellers make connections between the insight and the people they need to contact, helping them keep on top of every breaking piece of news that affects them, and helping them act on it.

And, unlike humans, computers never sleep. This simple fact means that sellers rely on them to keep the administrative plates spinning when the limitations of their physiology mean they can’t, or while we focus on more valuable human things, like relationship building.

These technologies might not yet be capable of giving sellers a whole extra day of free time, but research from our users suggests that they can save 45 minutes every day – so it’s almost there.

  1. Save Money

Again a big part of the 4-day week debate. According to Juniper Research AI and machine learning will generate cost savings of more the $8bn by 2022. Aberdeen likewise provides a great example. Take a sales team of 200, each earning an average salary of £50k per year. If each spends a typical 14% of time every day on research and administrative tasks then that translates to £1.4 million in unnecessary costs to the business each year.

If it’s possible to automate research, putting the most relevant insights into the hands of the sales rep, at the right time, it’s not unrealistic to presume we could cut that figure down to 4% – just the admin aspects of the job. In real terms, based on the above example, that would mean a saving of around £1 million. Surely a worthwhile investment.

Don’t wait – take advantage of the benefits of AI powered sales tools now

According to a McKinsey report, companies that have invested in advanced sales tools have already started to pull ahead of their peers in terms of revenue growth (registering 2.3 times the industry average), profitability (3 to 5 percent additional return on sales) and shareholder value (8 percent higher total return to shareholders). Indeed comparative research suggests that insight-driven businesses using more advanced technologies will steal $1.2 trillion per annum from their less-informed peers.

Business leaders that embrace the latest technologies enabling sales success, and who invest in technology that develops sales behaviour will be the first to sustainably achieve a four day working week. But in the meantime you will already save more, do more and win more.