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The Future is Now in Sales. With Sam Mallikarjunan [Episode 590]

Sam Mallikarjunan, Executive Strategist at HubSpot, and author of Inbound Commerce — How to Sell Better Than Amazon, joins me on this episode.


  • Sam says the single biggest challenge facing sales reps today is that the information power paradigm has shifted. The role of sales has changed from closing to guiding.
  • HubSpot did a correlation coefficient analysis of sales reps and quota attainment. Closing ability had a negative correlation. Domain experience led to a high correlation.
  • The first half of Sam’s book stresses competing for customer retention and competing for customers earlier in the buying process before they are set on what they want. That is still current knowledge.
  • Conversica studied sales reps. They sent idealized sales leads to companies. They found that less than half of the companies followed up on the leads, and less than a third followed up quickly or repeatedly. (Conversica sells bots.)
  • Initial prospecting — the SDR role — will either be by bots, or reps will have to add value beyond what they do today. Once there are no human SDRs, we will need to develop another entry-level role for sales.
  • Sam says to learn patience. AI will know what conversations to have with people, when. FAIR predicts reactions better than family and friends do. Reps will need to be good at having these known conversations.
  • Sam tells a sales story of his own experience illustrating a conversation that could not have been codified. There is not an algorithm to address every circumstance.
  • 2024 is the earliest estimate of when computers will have the same processing per second per thousand dollars as human beings. Sam sees the EQ of selling as the last thing to go but it will not be disruption-proof forever.
  • The buyer’s journey will change in several ways through AI. Buyers will select the experience they want. AI will be good at predicting what buyers want. It will also become good at influencing what buyers want.
  • Another HubSpot survey asks whom you trust. Teachers and doctors are at the top. Marketers are at the bottom rounded down to 0%. Sales reps are rounded up to 1%. They rank lower than bots. They lost to politicians in 2016.
  • This problem of low public regard for sales and marketing needs to be solved before any other problem can be solved. There are industries built around blocking sales and marketing from doing their jobs.