Autonomous Selling?

By Warren Shiver on Feb 18, 2015

1 Minute Estimated Read Time

I’ve been amazed to read about and watch the developments of so-called “self-driving cars” or autonomous driving. The potential for this technology to fundamentally re-shape transportation in this country is almost limitless, from reducing the # of cars per household (or even ownership) and the need for large amounts of on-site parking at retail and office destinations, to enabling those both young and old with a new form of point-to-point personal transportation. As many recent stories have highlighted, the technology exists today; it’s more a matter of aligning our legal and insurance approaches to align with and support a new model.

I heard Steve Cannon, the President of Mercedes-Benz USA, speak last week, and he confirmed that M-B has already demonstrated the technology – the main barrier is one of liability. In today’s environment, liability resides with the driver and their insurer, but in the future, if an accident is imminent and the “system” or software determines who or what to hit, who’s responsible?

I was wondering if the same shift could happen to sales. You could argue that this is already occurring, brought on by the internet and the increasing knowledge and power of buyers across almost all selling models: from a commodity purchased via to a home purchased with knowledge gained from Zillow to a vacation arranged through VRBO or Airbnb. In enterprise B2B selling, Gartner has published a prediction that by 2020 of the 18 million sales people in the US in 2011, only 4 million will remain. As the so-called “internet-of-things” continues to expand, will buying/selling become a more autonomous act? Certainly this already occurs in many transactional areas where your refrigerator can automatically order milk, but it’s also affecting other areas as well – from buying a car, house, or even enterprise software.

Michael Perla and I have been conducting research on selling models for our forthcoming book on sales transformations and have summarized the 4 basic models below:


It’s easy to see the impact of these trends on transactional and even solution selling. What will future technology bring in the areas of consultative and innovative selling? With powerful AI (artificial intelligence), the coming revolution in personal transportation could spill over to enterprise and complex selling.

Warren Shiver

Written by Warren Shiver

Warren Shiver is the founder and managing partner of Symmetrics Group, a management consultancy focused on end to end improvement in sales force effectiveness. Through Warren’s leadership, Symmetrics Group has helped numerous organizations build high-performing sales teams focused on the right go-to-market strategy, disciplined sales process and well-designed enabling tools. Clients and consultants appreciate Warren’s uncompromising focus on quality and measureable impact and how he embodies the firm’s core values.

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