The changing face of Sales Activation: Navigating the future of human and tech

20th May 2024

At the heart of every sales call, every speculative email, every ‘let’s catch up over coffee’, lies the Sales Development Representative (SDR) and Account Executive (AE) model. It’s been the cornerstone of every B2B sales teams’ toolkit for years.  

But that now looks to be changing. As a recent survey from PeerSignal found that the future of sales activation will likely be a blend of human ingenuity and artificial intelligence. 

What lies ahead for B2B sales teams?  

The SDR/AE model was popularized by Aaron Ross's "Predictable Revenue" playbook in 2011. But as PeerSignal's survey found, only 9% of people believe it will carry on in its current form. The majority (53%) anticipated a future where AEs and SDRs work alongside AI, acting as specialised assistant in the sales process.  

This mix of human and machine holds a lot of promise. One that’s more efficient and effective in navigating complex sales landscapes, such as large buying committees, diverse stakeholder needs, intricate decision-making processes, and varied regulatory requirements, especially in multinational corporations.

However, the road ahead is not without its challenges. While 32% see a future where AEs leverage AI tools independently, a minority (6%) worry that AI will replace both sales roles entirely.   

Realistically, the reality is likely to cover a spectrum of approaches. And, as PeerSignal suggests, the true answer may lie in embracing the diversity of strategies, with experimentation and evolution driving rapid change. 

A tale of two worlds 

There are two interesting insights from PeerSignal’s report: established giants are deeply entrenched in traditional models, while agile newcomers are poised to lead the charge towards innovation.  

Younger, smaller companies already show a greater willingness to embrace AI-driven approaches. They’re not held back by legacy systems and traditions that have been engrained for decades. The stage is set for a revolution, where the AI era meets the pioneering spirit of the next generation. 

Yet one truth remains: the human element will always be key. After all, the most successful sales activations often come from a blend of human intuition and technological ability. Whether it's the seasoned AE, crafting personalised pitches or the SDR leveraging AI-driven insights to identify promising leads – the work between human and machine is where true magic happens. 

Agility and adaptability  

The key to success lies in the ability to be flexible. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales activation. Success relies on the ability to embrace change: harnessing the power of AI while staying true to the fundamentals of human connection.   

The future of sales activation is a world of boundless potential. One that’s waiting to be unlocked by those bold enough to embrace it - one innovation at a time. 

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to gen AI and what we are seeing, get in touch. We’d be more than happy to talk through it. 

[Reference: SDR in 2024 blog by Adam Schoenfeld] 



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