Robots make better salespeople than humans, study says

Technically Incorrect: A study performed on human salespeople by an artificial intelligence company shows that humans just don't have the stamina.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Meet Claire or Anna or Rachel or Ashley. At least this is how I imagine they look.

Photo by CNET

Sales people are real triers.

They know how to cajole. They know how to pester. They understand your triggers and work them mercilessly until they're elected president.

But are human sales people really all that? I've just set eyes on a study that suggests many salespeople give up far too easily, while their robot counterparts have the persistence that matters.

A company called Conversica says it went to the websites of 548 companies across nine industries and asked to be contacted by a human salesperson.

A third didn't reply at all. Of the other two-thirds, around 66 percent gave up after one or two tries.

This seems like a relatively poor showing on behalf of the human race. Either that, or it shows a peculiarly advanced humanity. Why pester people too much? Who wants that?

Conversica wasn't happy. Why might this be? You'll be numbed to your nasal hairs when I tell you Conversica "automates email conversations with all your leads," according to its website. So here are the robot people telling us that robots are better than people.

Indeed, Conversica claims that in its work with IBM and other clients, its robots keep on going and find success between 5 and 11 times of pestering a lead. Oh, the nightmare that is the future.

What tricks does Conversica have up its metal sleeve? It claims on the basis of the 8 million robotic conversations it's performed over 7 years that robot women are more effective than robot men. That doesn't differ from humans, does it?

However, a company spokesman told me: "An AI automated assistant will happily engage with prospects as often and as long as is required." Required by the annoying automated assistant's boss, that is.

He explained that humans just don't have it anymore. "People are busy, they're inconsistent, they cherry-pick the leads, they get discouraged, or they just have bad days," he said.

Should you be less fond of being pestered, you should look out for salespeople called Rachel, Ashley, Anna and Claire. These are the four most common names given to robot salespeople by Conversica's clients. They're apparently typical names for a 25-year-old woman. Yes, I'm being serious.

I delved deep for good news from this study. Good news for humans, that is. Here's the best I could find: 42 percent of the human salespeople who did respond to Conversica's inquiry actually did so within five minutes.

This is a 36 percent improvement on a similar study performed last year.

So, people, we still have a chance. We just have to work on that relentless, painful persistence that gets other people very irritated.

Or it's Death of A Salesman for us all.

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