Apr 17, 2018
Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. While there’s been a lot of hype about AI we’re yet to see it’s true value – but I don’t believe we’ll have to wait much longer. In fact, AI technology can be found in some sales software already.
AI has the potential to have a profound impact on your sales strategies and the sales readiness of your reps.
Forrester predicts that AI will disrupt your sales strategy this year. In fact, 84% of businesses believe AI will give them a competitive advantage and 69% believe their competitors will use it too.
It will make your sales organization more intelligent agile, and customer-centric. It may even change the way you sell altogether.
What is AI?
AI is the ability for a computer program or a machine to think and learn. AI, therefore, needs a lot of data that it can filter and process quickly. The more data you give AI the more intelligent it will become.
AI can be used in simple tasks, like playing a game of chess with you, or for more complex decisions like behind the wheel of a driverless car.
Potentially, AI can be used to do anything that a human does. It can sort through your inbox and work out what emails you should prioritize and help you research your customers. The biggest limitation on AI in the future will be what your customers are happy to accept. For example, many may not want to have a complex discussion about your product, but they may be happy to ask a chatbot some preliminary questions.
Analyzing sales conversations
It can take hours for managers to wade through taped phone calls or listen in on live calls so they can coach their salespeople. Converastion intelligence listens to conversations, transcribing, and then analyzing them. This technology exists today and is able to pick up on key parts of the conversation like when a customer starts talking about the issues they are facing or information that competitors have given them.
This information can then be used by your sales managers to help coach their salespeople. Your sales enablement team can also use it to improve processes and best practices, like call scripts and training materials. The product and marketing teams can also use the competitor information for their market and customer insights.
This technology has the potential to develop and improve even face-to-face sales conversations in the future. Imagine if it could ‘hear’ every conversation reps have out in the field. These could all be analyzed to provide information about how to improve how each individual rep sells.
It could also be used to script phone conversations in real-time. This would give SDRs all the information they need to deal with customer questions and objections as they arise.
Optimizing lead generation
Finding the right leads for your salespeople can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Because AI can process large amounts of data quickly, and then learn from what it finds, it has the potential to revolutionize lead generation.
Rather than a person having to go through Google, social media, or other data sources, AI can review these for you. The technology can not only identify the right job titles and businesses to target, but it can also analyze the sentiment in comments made on social media or by email. This means AI can help you identify whether someone is unhappy with a competitor’s product or is in the market for a new one. When you consider that 57% of buyers are already far along their decision-making process before they meet a salesperson, the earlier you can speak to them the better your opportunity to convert them.
Some platforms already use AI to help them identify the right leads and contact them. The technology can create prospecting emails, monitor responses and improve how they react to them. It can compare lead responses to past data and even predict how each lead will respond, helping prioritize leads. This frees up the time of marketing and salespeople, qualifying prospects quicker and more cost-effectively.
Having sales conversations
While it’s unlikely that AI will replace salespeople in complex sales any time soon, they can help move sales conversations further down the process. Many businesses already use chatbots to answer simple questions for customers on their websites.
According to Forrester, these are already replacing email in customer service channels in large companies like Nike and Apple and they may influence up to 10% of purchasing decisions. The more conversations the technology has with customers, the more it will learn.
The power of AI extends far beyond the sales conversation and into the data that the technology can collect during these conversations. They can take the information that customers share, identify their sentiment and then feed that information back to your sales, enablement, product, and marketing teams. This can inform your sales training, processes, product features, and marketing strategies as well.
Salespeople can spend almost a quarter of their time on administrative tasks. Managing their emails, logging their activity, and updating the CRM. This is all time that could be spent selling. It is here that AI can potentially generate the quickest wins. If it can give back selling hours to each of your salespeople’s days, that has the potential to go straight to your topline revenue.
There are many ways that AI can potentially reduce administration at the frontline. Prioritizing emails and suggesting how a salesperson should respond to them is just one. Depending on the data available to it, AI could help put together the best pricing option for a customer, conduct credit checks and automate billing. AI can even do a salesperson’s reading for them, notifying them if something has changed that means they need to call a customer. If a customer has recently acquired another business or a new VP has been appointed, it may be time for your rep to touch base again.
Prediction is what AI specializes in so it’s only fitting that it would be used for forecasting. By providing data about past performance it can use it to predict future performance – but AI can go further.
It can take data from a wide range of sources and pull them together to create a predictive model for future performance. Rather than just telling you if you’ll meet your quota at the end of the year, AI tells you which deals are more likely to close and when. Sales managers and reps can be far more strategic about their customer interactions.
Taking it a step further, AI could tell you which customers to upsell to and when. This can save reps a significant amount of time and energy, by focusing efforts where it’s more likely to be rewarded. The result should be an increase in win rates and productivity.
A study in MIT Sloan Management Review found that 76% of early adopters aimed for higher sales growth using AI and it’s easy to see why. AI has the potential to completely change the way reps play the game. It can give them more time to sell and improve how they sell as well.
With so many different options available to you, the biggest challenge is to work out which AI technology to implement first – perhaps there’ll be an algorithm that can even tell you that soon.