How the Role of a Sales Rep Changes with Sales Automation

Is a sales rep at risk from automation and AI? Explore the truth and understand how these technologies can actually augment your skills.


So, you’ve heard the whispers: “Sales Automation and AI are coming for your sales job.” It’s the kind of news that makes you wonder if you should start prepping your resume for a career in artisanal bread-making. But before you panic, let’s talk about what’s really happening.

Sales automation and AI have made incredible strides, leading some to believe that sales reps are going the way of the dodo. The idea of robots taking over our roles is as unsettling as it is intriguing. But is there any truth to this fear?

The reality is more nuanced. AI isn’t here to replace you (at least for a long time); it’s here to make you better at your job.

Sales Automation and An SDR’s Roles

One of the reasons why there’s a common conception about an SDR’s role being replaced by sales automation is the nature of these roles - they overlap each other! Let’s first define what a sales representative’s role is, and what sales automation does in a typical sales process.

End-to-End Parts of a Typical Sales Process: SDR's Role vs. Automation's Role

1. Addressable Market, Buyer Personas, and ICP

Traditionally, an SDR defines an addressable market, define buyer personas, build an ideal customer profile (ICP). With sales automation tools like Lemlist, SDRs can understand more about their buyer persona by creating a fictional representation.

2. Lead Generation

Marketing automation tools exist to help a typical marketing team attract and convert any kind of prospective buyers into someone who has actively indicated interest in your company’s product or service. This is usually called a marketing qualified lead, or an MQL.

3. Prospecting

Sales automation tools help identify and engage buyers that are qualified and ready to buy (they show a higher likelihood of converting into actual customers). Sales automation tools can use intent data, signals, and AI to personalize and scale outbound efforts. These tools help SDRs launch creative campaigns they ideate with intent signals they find relevant to their business.

4. Lead Qualification

SDRs engage with leads to conduct BANT analysis (assessing fit based on budget, authority, need, and timing) using demographic and technographic data. Conversation intelligence tools can assist with the BANT analysis. However, an SDR’s ability of picking up on non-verbal cues like withheld information, behavioural changes, etc are rendering BANT analysis tools insufficient - but still a decent aid to an SDR.

5. Outreach and Engagement

Sales automation tools can help SDRs personalize their messaging, engage, and automate outbound outreach. However, content and messaging bits are far from refined as of yet. Generative AI has made strides, but manual SDR intervention is still required. SDRs can get the pulse of potential customers by interacting with them, and automation tools for sales can handle repetitive outreach, follow-ups, etc.

6. Product Demonstration and Presentations

This role remains irreplaceable by SDRs as they provide demos, handle objections, provide explanations, answer any questions that an SQL could have. Sales automation tools can only help with scheduling and reminders at this stage, provide insights from recordings, etc.

While AI sales tools handle repetitive and data-driven tasks, SDRs bring the personal touch, critical thinking, and relationship-building skills essential for successful sales interactions. When leveraged together, they create a more efficient and effective sales strategy, driving better results and fostering stronger customer relationships.

Final Verdict: Can Sales Automation Replace Sales Reps?

The short answer: No. AI sales tools cannot replace sales reps. Here’s why:

1. Human Touch and Relationship Building

Building trust and rapport is an intangible but indispensable part of sales. The ability to understand and respond to the emotional and psychological needs helps build strong relationships.

2. Originality and Ideation

Creativity and originality in humans vs automations or AI in sales varies deeply. Sales automation tools can assist with applying innovative ideas to maximize the outcome.

3. Nuanced Understanding and Adaptability

Sales reps can read between the lines, picking up on non-verbal cues and subtle signals that automation tools might miss. It’s the make or break of each sale.

4. Complex Problem-Solving

Sales reps tackle complex objections and provide better solutions, demonstrating a deep understanding of the product and the prospect's specific needs that comes with hands on, active, continuous experience.

5. Provide Safety and Assurance

Sales reps make the first close impression on a prospect. They provide the assurance of legitimacy and the safety required for association.

6. Strategic Thinking and Negotiation

Sales reps use strategic thinking to navigate complex sales processes, negotiate terms, and close deals. Their ability to think critically and negotiate effectively leads to better deal outcomes and mutually beneficial agreements.

How the Role of the SDR has evolved

Sales automation tools are here, and they’re not taking over your job – they’re making it better. Think of them as your new sidekick, handling the repetitive tasks that used to slow you down. No need for extra headcount when you’ve got automation on your team.

Build Your Own SDR

Sales reps now have the chance to "build their own SDR" using these tools. Imagine having an AI sales assistant that takes care of the grunt work, freeing you to focus on the fun stuff – like crafting creative outreach strategies and connecting with potential buyers.

Adapt and Thrive

Adapting to these tools is key. It’s not about doing less work; it’s about working smarter. Use intent signals, dive into intent data, and understand your buyers on a deeper level. The automation handles the grunt work, but you’ll need to bring your A-game for the creative and strategic parts.

More Creativity, Less Mundane

With the mundane tasks out of the way, you’ve got more room to be creative. Experiment with new strategies, refine your approach, and think outside the box. Automation gives you the bandwidth to innovate and improve.

How SDRs Can Increase their Relevancy

  • Learn the ins and outs of sales automation tools. Understand their full potential and work with them.

  • Not all automation is created equal. Focus on tools that are right for you instead of getting excited by the idea of automation and AI in sales.

  • Use automation to test different strategies. Analyze the results and refine your approach based on what works best.

  • Stay updated with the latest trends and tools in sales automation. Invest in good training programs to keep your skills sharp.

  • Keep up with how sales is changing. Seek a training program if needed. Follow this step carefully, and with some relevant guidance.


Automation handles the boring stuff, freeing you up to do what you’re best at – building relationships and closing deals.

But here’s the catch: you need to change at the root level. Be confident, curious, and patient. These traits will help you navigate the sales landscape, especially if you’re just starting out.

Once you’ve nailed these basics, dive into the technical stuff. Master the tools, stay ahead of trends, and keep learning. In the end, AI sales tools are your sidekick, not your replacement - and there’s no choice but to work with them. Embrace it, and you’ll thrive!

Want To Dive Deeper?

If your marketing and sales team is struggling to meet quota, its time to give them a Side Kick!