Artificial intelligence (AI) is having a growing impact on the performance of business and sales. Everyone is talking about it, but not many really understand the changes that are happening or what to do about. Most sales reps are too busy prophesying a bot-like sales armageddon that they can’t see the opportunity staring them in the face. While many businesses merely scratch the surface of the potential AI can have with automation and email blasts, the best companies in the world are embracing this technology and using it to revolutionise sales forever.
According to the latest State of Sales Report, sales leaders expect their adoption of AI to grow by 155% by the year 2020. This is no surprise considering high performers are 4.9X more likely to use AI than underperformers.
I believe the problem the underperformers have in this equation is with their mindset. It’s a “me or the robot” mentality that has their shoes stuck in the mud and their targets slipping further and further away. All professionals are facing disruption by AI and the machine age, but for the most part, these advancements in technology are complementary to your success, not inhibitive.
In sales, humans and technology are combining to be better at connecting data, identifying opportunities, prioritising leads, and forecasting backed by intelligence.
There are many problems in sales that AI can help us solve, but in my view, there are three that matter right now…
Your sales resources are stretched thin and it’s because there is a lot of wasted energy going into ineffective activity, unqualified follow-ups and time wasters. The big questions your reps want to answer are “who should I call first” and “why will they care”. The answers to these questions are more complex than they used to be.
AI alleviates resource wastage at the top of the funnel by analysing and connecting data from different sources. Customer trends, account history, competitor involvement, email, CRM, calendar, and website activity. Instead of manually researching these insights and identifying the best opportunities, technology can automatically score leads and prioritise their presence in a sales rep’s follow up notes, significantly improving your B2B lead generation strategy.
The first problem amplifies the second. Reps are so busy following up with leads that will never close that they neglect the good ones. Highly qualified prospects are making it to the middle-of-the-funnel only to be left out in the cold. Radio silence. Before you know it they are signing a deal with your biggest competitor.
On top of feeding you data points and analysis about top-of-the-funnel prospects in an attempt to focus your energy on winning subjects, AI can coach you to better close deals once they are in your pipeline. The latest State of Sales Report found that 62% of high-performing salespeople foresee a big role for guided selling that ranks potential opportunity value and suggests next steps.
This kind of predictive technology is already here. Salesforce’s Einstein provides deal coaching for complex B2B sales opportunities with predictive lead scoring, customer insights, and prompts for how and when to follow up. This level of timely buyer/seller interaction determines the probability of winning a deal. Unlike a human, Einstein is always monitoring and delivering feedback on the deals that need your attention.
Data-driven forecasting should be the norm for sales teams, yet only 34% of sales leaders have ways to implement intelligent forecasting which automates the process. Although 90% believe it would help them do their job more effectively. Salespeople are managing up with manually entered spreadsheets, outdated data sets, and with a huge amount of lost efficiency. This is leaving sales management misinformed and begging for real-time insights.
This approach is simply unacceptable and AI can help by bringing real-time and accurate forecasting that keeps management informed if and when they need to be.
Even with the progression of AI and automated sales technology, humans still want to interact with humans. AI isn’t your nemesis; it’s your partner in productivity, and it’s ready to eliminate mundane administrative tasks and deliver you insights when you need them. It’s a way to focus on the high impact activities that actually shift the needle. These activities, in most cases, are still very much the same. Getting on the phone, having a meeting, or sending a personalised proposal.
The best salespeople are finding ways to combine traditional sales methods with the efficiency of new technology and automation. Refine your human-specific strengths such as creativity, empathy and emotional connection. Let the algorithms and machines sort through data to facilitate better conversations, not replace them. AI could take your job if you let it by being a transactor of commodities. But those willing to create new levels of value and apply their skills to a world of sales that looks a little different will win.
“If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” - Dale Carnegie
It’s time for salespeople to become friends with technology. Embrace it. Feed off it. Use it to become a superhuman salesperson.
Once we truly remove the shackles, AI will explode and so will your efficiency as a B2B salesperson. An opportunity awaits for you to be prepared for customer meetings with meaningful relationship summaries, stakeholder information, opportunity ideas, problem insights, suggestions; and execute with accurate forecasts, and hyper-intelligent next steps... all provided by your “robot” assistant.
AI is the future of B2B sales. It’s time you got on board.
To learn more about AI and other trends affecting the sales industry, download Salesforce’s State of Sales report today.