In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver tackled growing fears surrounding job displacement due to automation. “What do you want to do when you grow up?” he asked a bevy of adorable four and five-year-olds who supplied the typical answers: pilot, lawyer, doctor — and of course, mermaid doctor.
Pouring water on these little kids’ dreams — and those of adults alike, Oliver cited an alarming University of Oxford study predicting up to 50 percent of human jobs are at risk of being usurped by robots. (Although maybe not the much-coveted mermaid doctor position.) By the sketch's end, Oliver made a prediction that other pundits have suggested: In the future, "safer" careers will involve non-routine, specialized work involving creativity and emotional intelligence (EQ.)
Much of what I have learned from co-writing the upcoming book, Own the AI Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition with UN AI advisor Neil Sahota has confirmed the truth of Oliver’s assertion. Many experts have told us that market forces in the 4th Industrial Revolution will expand the need for humans capable of understanding and responding to others’ emotional states. Yet, what if computers could learn to detect and display empathy better than us?
Awareness of this possibility led tech pioneer Scott Sandland to co-found Cyrano.ai, combining AI and EQ for commercial innovation. A Southern California-based entrepreneur, Sandland is a renown hypnotherapist who sees the value of training machines to understand the richness of language, specifically subtext, to communicate emotions. “For a long time now, computers possessed decent voice recognition capable of understanding human speech,” says Sandland. “But language is more complex than the literal words we use. Meaning can also be communicated through tone, context, cultural filters, and subtext.”
To illustrate what he means by subtext, Sandland cites the example of a friend inviting you to their Super Bowl party. If you say, “I’ll try to be there,” what you’re really saying is, “Thanks, but I probably won't come.” Your non-committal response signals to your pal the unlikelihood that you will be eating jalapeno poppers on his couch next Sunday. “You were being polite in your reply,” Sandland explains, “which any person capable of reading social cues would pick up on. What we’re doing now at Cyrano is teaching machines to detect such nuance because it likely contains the real message being communicated.”
Devoid of brains evolved to detect the slightest intonation change to reveal how another is feeling, Sandland and his team trained their computers to inspect textual clues for emotional states, including the length of response, directness, the type and variety of words chosen, deflection, and the presence or lack of commitment words. As Disruptive Technology Director at Elsevier Labs Paul Groth, Ph.D., suggests, data is key to functional machine learning. Cyrano’s AI, therefore, learned to detect linguistic clues by reading transcripts between prospects and car dealership representatives. In time, their system constructed an algorithm to predict if a prospect would buy or not simply based on the words they used in online interaction.
Let’s step back for a moment and allow this idea to sink in. What Cyrano’s company does is nothing short of extraordinary. In essence, the team has taught a computer to determine the inner emotional states of a person — including their likelihood of buying from you — all based on as little as the words typed to a sales bot. Now, just imagine how much better an AI’s closing rate might be if it had even more data to utilize.
For a glimpse of what’s possible, meet Cheri Tree. Tree co-founded Codebreaker Technologies Technologies, Inc. with Esther Wildenberg, the company’s president. As Tree describes in her book, Why They Buy, she grew up loving the rush of sales — even little ones like those she made selling snacks to her peers at boarding school. However, she hit a wall in her fledgling career as a financial advisor by following traditional sales advice. “Experts will tell you sales is a numbers game,” says Tree. “They say in order to get more yeses, you have to get more nos. I say that’s one of the greatest myths ever told because the truth is to get more yeses you have to get more yeses, not more nos.”
The next logical question would be: So how did you get those yeses?
To answer this, Tree invented a scientifically validated assessment methodology called B.A.N.K.; it has been featured at some of the largest business conferences around the world, at Harvard University, and has been backed by research from San Francisco State University. “You may already be familiar with DISC or MBTI,” says Tree. “I essentially reverse-engineered personality science and rather than building it using psychology, I built it using BUYology, the science of buying behavior. Instead of assessing who you are, I built an assessment based on who your customer is, based on four personality types: Blueprint, Action, Nurturing and Knowledge. Our focus is on why they buy and what triggers the yes and tripwires the no.”
Drawing on the same realization as Sandland, Tree recognized the secret to sales involves communication mastery. Eschewing the prevailing orthodoxy suggesting a salesperson needs to simply work on their presentation; Tree recognized the Dale Carnegie-esque truth that Sandland’s empathy-driven bots thrive on: sales occur most frequently when the values between a buyer and seller are aligned. She often cites a study done by the Chally Group that only 18 percent of buyers will buy from a salesperson who doesn’t match the buyer’s personality type versus an 82 percent success rate when personality types are aligned. Lacking the emphatic mastery displayed by Cyrano’s AI bots, many underperforming salespeople, therefore, end up repeating the same message, hoping the sheer number of attempts will yield positive results and subjecting themselves to the proverbial numbers game.
As any veteran cold-caller will attest, following a numbers approach can be fruitful — but also time-consuming and demoralizing. Why bother, asks Tree when you can shortcut the process and gain better results (as much as 300% or higher) by knowing your prospect better. “The B.A.N.K. system is based on a value system,” says Tree. “You can’t just automatically know what someone values. You can certainly make assumptions, but why B.A.N.K. has been so powerful for sales is that it reveals the priorities of its prospects.”
Up until now, Tree and her many adherents have been able to determine the buying habits of their prospects within 90 seconds by using a card system. Whether meeting face-to-face or taking a quick online assessment, prospects are given the opportunity to select which of the four personality types best represent them in order of importance. They can decide if they view themselves as someone who prioritizes stability and structure (Blueprint), a full-speed-ahead mover/shaker risk-taker, (Action), a warm and friendly relationship-driven type (Nurturing), or an analytical, logical thinker (Knowledge).
“We found every customer is not just one of these four, they’re actually a combination of all four,” says Tree. “Therefore, each person has their own B.A.N.K. code. Think of a B.A.N.K. code like a PIN code to your debit card. Every human has a four-digit B.A.N.K. code. Ultimately, there are 24 combinations, which means the average salesperson has roughly a 4 percent chance of speaking to their customer in their exact code — which isn’t very high.”
B.A.N.K. Code seeks to dramatically increase sales efficacy from a dismal 4 percent to something much higher, which is where Cyrano comes in. Within the past year, Sandland and Tree have joined to create DAVINCI. Powered by Cyrano and informed by Tree’s personality methodology, it will be the world’s first digital agent capable of deciphering a prospect’s code. Using a proprietary algorithm, it can predict a person’s buying behavior in nanoseconds.
“Here’s an example of how this works,” says Sandland. “Imagine you have been courting a prospect for some time. DAVINCI can take a handful of emails this individual has written you and with a push of a button determine this person’s code. But that’s not all. It can even recommend how to tailor your written responses so as to best align with your prospect’s values. For example, after I’ve written my reply email, the system can tell me if I’m speaking my customer’s language. If I’m not, it will automatically tell me how to rewrite the email similar to the way AI autocompletes sentences.”
This type of AI-assisted sales guidance only hints at the future of DAVINCI's offerings. Right now, it's being rolled out to analyze text, but it will also work with voice input and video. In time, its sophisticated analysis will encompass dozens of more metrics, measuring multiple aspects of personality to best determine what will ultimately lead to a yes. Based on these capabilities, both Sandland and Tree agree computers will soon outperform the best salespeople. Beyond the simple fact, AI is incapable of possessing an ego or growing weary of a lengthy sales encounter, it is endowed with a vast database of questions, replies and responses it has accumulated over time. As a result, it can draw on historical patterns to determine the best course of action. Or to use another acronym — A.B.C. — the one Alec Baldwin's character employs in the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross, AIs can really “Always Be Closing.”
Returning to the subject of automation raised at the beginning of this article, does the emergence of DAVINCI portend yet another setback for human workers? Does witnessing how well a computer can perform sales mean we must throw up our hands, surrendering to our empathy-wielding, personality-assessing, sales closing machine overlords? Not at all. Instead, technological advances promise yet one more tool in humanity’s arsenal. Besides, as evidenced by the work DAVINCI is doing, the best way to stay competitive in tomorrow’s workforce is to learn the skills Cyrano and B.A.N.K. rely on, such as EQ, creativity and adaptability.
(PS: After writing this article, I ran my own text through the DAVINCI to learn my BANK score. Here it is: KNBA. DAVINCI is launching to the public in July 2019 at the company’s conference, BANKICON.com. If you would like to learn more or crack your code, please visit: codebreakertech.com.)
Michael Ashley, contributor, and fascinated with the artificial intelligence revolution, is currently co-authoring the ultimate guide for businesses on the subject of AI with Neil Sahota, worldwide business development leader and master inventor for the IBM Watson Group. Part author, part screenwriter, Michael Ashley’s treatment was turned into the hit Disney film, Girl Versus Monster. A 4-time Best-Selling author, he has ghostwritten both fiction and non-fiction books. It’s Saturday Morning, his debut traditionally published book (becker&meyer!), will hit bookstores in Q3 with a foreword by Howie Mandel. Michael was commissioned to screenwrite a TV pilot for Brandon Fayette, Lead Visual Effects artist for JJ Abrams (Star Wars, Lost). Prior to establishing Ink Wordsmiths, his own creative content company, he worked in many literary positions, including as a professional reader for the Head of the Literary Department of Creative Artists Agency.
Michael’s ghost-written blogs have appeared in the Huffington Post and OpEdNews. He has worked as a beat reporter for the Columbia Missourian and as a columnist for Newsbase, an online journal specializing in the energy sector. Author of This Works Marketing (2018), Evolution by God (2017), Fiction in A Weekend (2017) and The Six-Figure Writer (2015) Michael holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Screenwriting from Chapman University and teaches online writing courses. Thought leaders, including Michael Gerber, David Oreck, and Montel Williams have endorsed his work and his clients have appeared on Inside Edition and prestigious publications, including the Orange County BusinessJournal and Pelican Hill Magazine.