Will Digital Transformation and Automation Take Over the Sales Roles?

Digital transformation, artificial intelligence and automation are real. Does it mean the roles of sales reps and sales managers will eventually be automated?

Everywhere we look we read about digital transformation, and artificial intelligence, big data, and automation. Given that, it makes sense to sit back and ponder, “will my job be automated five to 10 years from now?”

Of course nobody has a crystal ball, but we can use some tools to take a look at this important topic. One great resource is the following website: https://willrobotstakemyjob.com/top-paid-low-risk-jobs

At its core, this website is using data and rankings from an Oxford University whitepaper (2013) about the topic, which included very specific % chances of being automated in the future. The website does not estimate exactly when an automation may occur, but for the sake of argument- let’s pick 2030 as a round number.

This site ranks and groups 702 occupation titles, and the results are really quite interesting and profound. Any parent of a high school student should be aware of said website. Some relevant notes, in no order:

  • Sales engineers (or technical sales representatives) earn a median compensation of about $104,000, but have only a 0.41% chance of being automated.
  • Sales managers earn about $126,000 per year, with just a 1.30% chance of being replaced.
  • General sales representatives (wholesale and manufacturing) have a 25% chance of being automated.
  • There are 12 occupations with a 99% chance of being automated.
  • Commercial pilots have a 55% chance of having their jobs discontinued.
  • Computer programmers- 48% chance.
  • Compensation and benefits managers earn about $122,000, but they have a 96% of being automated.

There is so much data here, and one must also take this report, and website, with a grain of salt. That said, what is the takeaway?

Jobs where there is a heavy social and interactive element, including management of other people, are relatively safe from automation. Intuitively, this makes sense. Even with artificial intelligence and computer learning, it is unlikely that a computer could read a room or a situation as well as an experienced person could. Aside from that, there is something odd and awkward about signing a $800,000 software deal for your company with a robot or a computer. To some degree there will always be a need for that “human touch”.

Jobs that don’t require a ton of brainpower and/or are very repetitive are more easily replaced by computers.

Many analyst type positions are more at risk; computers and super-computers can do much of this kind of numerical and data work much quicker and with less error.

In summary, most professional salespeople and their managers are in pretty solid shape as we look towards the future labor market. Sales isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be very rewarding and it looks like it still will be vibrant in the years and decades ahead.

Free Webinar on Technical Sales Reps

Reps who sell complex technical products or services are a merger between the typical sales rep/account executive and a technical support specialist. Companies often have trouble hiring qualified candidates for these hybrid sales positions. Ken Lambert is presenting a webinar on Wednesday, May 12, at 2 p.m. Eastern on where to look, what to look for, and who at your firm may be able to convert into a successful technical sales rep. Learn more and register for the free webinar, sponsored by Sales & Marketing Management.


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    Ken Lambert is the president of North American Association of Sales Engineers, which strives to advance the careers of sales engineers and technical sales representatives through connection, shared experiences and certification.

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