There is a ton — a literal TON — of talk these days about automation. It’s the next great promise. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. All that. The New Yorker actually had an article last year saying automation would be like compressing the Industrial Revolution (the one you learned about in school) into the lifespan of a beagle. Everything is going to change.

This includes sales, marketing, and recruiting too, of course — but is automation going to change everything for the better? That’s not yet fully determined.


The elephant in the room to acknowledge first

Why are people so excited about automation?

At a company level, you have essentially two buckets:

  1. Some companies will understand that automating lower-value, rote, logistical tasks can free up their people to do more valuable activities during the day and contribute to the business.
  2. Many companies will just see automation as a cost play to get salaries off the books.

Those are the two buckets you’ll increasingly see as automation gets to scale.

What about sales?

Automation is already full ingrained in sales. Many email marketing suites that reps use to blast prospects are essentially automation. They’re not necessarily an advanced form that learns as it goes, no, but they’re an automated tool.

But here’s the problem.

Let’s say a sales development rep (SDR) is given access to an AI-connected sales platform. The AI is supposedly the all-knowing holy grail of this new program the company just bought, so the SDR is probably tempted to do less research.

Now the SDR blasts out 1,000 AI-qualified emails as opposed to 500 personalized cold emails. Because he did twice the work in less time, we’re supposed to see that as a benefit.

But is it?

What if the 1,000 nets 2-3 “leads” or demos, but the 500 would have netted 10-15 because of the research-driven personalized approach?

Quality always beats quantity in email prospecting.

A/B Test Yourself

What if you did 1,000 automation suite emails one week, and then the next week did personalized cold emails?

See which process nets you more interested parties. Apply the right KPIs and sales metrics. Don’t be tempted to measure success on in the number of outbound emails of your SDRs.

This all works with recruiting, too

You can use automation to advance your candidate pipeline/funnel by a factor of 3-5x, honestly. But you need to do it right. Smart. Quality.

The bottom line

The point here is this: automation is great, and will help with the workload and targeting over time. But when you use automation, you can’t subsequently be a robot. You need to still research, find overlapping elements in potential customers/candidates, articulate value, network, define product-market fit, message-persona-fit, and everything else.

My two cents: automate the lowest-value stuff you need to do all week (scheduling, email folder cleanup, finding email-addresses, etc.) The real value-driven stuff around product and people and outreach? Automate the underlying processes but not the actual connective part of it.

Robots may replace some of our functionality in the next 30 years. Why become one now?

Ted Bauer

Originally from New York City, Ted Bauer currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a writer and editor for RecruitingDaily who focuses on leadership, management, HR, recruiting, marketing, and the future of work. His popular blog, The Context of Things, has a simple premise -- how to improve work. Ted has a Bachelors in Psychology from Georgetown and a Masters in Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. In addition to various blogging and ghost-writing gigs, he's also worked for brands such as McKesson, PBS, ESPN, and more. You can follow Ted on Twitter @tedbauer2003, connect with him on LinkedIn, or reach him on email at [email protected]