Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer the next shiny thing; it’s a game-changer. Giving businesses (big and small) a real competitive advantage, it adds efficiency and intelligence to operations. Early adopters are already reaping the benefits of AI, and small businesses can’t afford to be left behind.

Technology has become the backbone of growth for many successful small businesses, creating a foundation that enables you to grow and scale with ease. It also helps alleviate one of the perpetual challenges for small business: a lack of resource and the consequent need to do more with less. A good CRM system, especially one that’s enhanced with a layer of AI, allows you to do just that – more with less.

CRM technology helps your business move faster and execute in real time, from anywhere, all while giving you real-time visibility into business performance. So, you’re able to make better decisions, all of which leads to financial gain. A recent Deloitte Access Economics report, Small Business Imperatives for the Digital Age, found that businesses with a CRM system earn 28% more revenue than businesses using paper, spreadsheet or no system at all.

Does a small business really need AI?


Despite the clear benefits, only 10% of small businesses are using AI in their sales and marketing efforts, with many viewing the technology as too hard, too expensive and/or too resource-intensive. But, AI isn’t the big complicated black box that some think it is. Nor does it require a team of data scientists and developers.

With an AI-powered CRM, you can simply turn on plug-and-play AI capabilities. Using your unique business processes and customer data, AI works away in the background to deliver predictions and recommendations, automate responses and actions, and make your employees more productive and your customers even happier.

"AI isn’t the big complicated black box that some think it is."


This technology has become available to small businesses at an affordable price, with almost no customisation or development required. Cloud technology has really democratised business software, as it operates with no initial outlay or costly ongoing maintenance – just an annual subscription fee instead. Through the cloud, small businesses can access innovative technologies that enable you to compete with the big end of town.

Small business can’t afford to ignore AI


Customer expectations are changing. Changes in technology has created a customer that’s empowered and connected – and they increasingly expect businesses to anticipate their needs. Not that this is something you don’t know – changing customer expectations was ranked by small businesses as a top threat in the Deloitte report.

But, empowered customers aren’t just challenging small business. This is a power shift felt by businesses of all sizes, across all industries. Larger businesses are turning to AI for help, leveraging its capabilities to deliver an optimised and personalised customer experience – at scale, in an automated way.

"A decision not to follow suit is effectively a decision to fall behind."


So, the reality is that AI is already here, it’s in the market, and start-ups and small businesses need to also be turning to the technology if they want to remain competitive, and drive growth and efficiency. A decision not to follow suit is effectively a decision to fall behind.



7 practical ways AI can help small business grow


If you’re still not sure how AI can benefit your business, here are some ways:

  1. Sell more, faster – Using historical data, AI can generate real-time predictive models that score new leads and opportunities, and recommend next best actions. This enables sales reps to use their time more efficiently, on the leads that are most likely to convert.

  2. Improve marketing personalisation and ROI – Increase the impact of your marketing with automated segmentation and predictive journey management. Plus, with rich real-time insights, you can closely track marketing campaigns, and shift spend from those campaigns that aren’t performing to those that are.

  3. Remove administrative burden – By automating manual processes like data entry and report generation, you can free up time, enabling you to focus on business strategy and tasks that are going to drive the business forward.

  4. Optimise sales forecasting – Sales leaders can correlate their opinions of the sales pipeline with predictive AI view, then more closely analyse gaps.

  5. Smarter customer service – AI-enabled chat bots allow you to automate quick, basic responses so customers can interact with your business in real-time, without using up resources. AI can also help support staff with next best-action recommendations and issue avoidance.

  6. Discover rich insights – AI helps you find patterns in your data, so you can predict future trends and make better business decisions.

  7. Provide a better employee experience – Just as customer expectations have shifted, employee expectations have also changed. Employees expect a workplace to provide access to the technology that’s going to maximise their success – AI is a key driver of this.

AI is supercharging growth for InFusion360


On a mission to deliver a faster, more personalised customer experience, financial services firm, InFusion360, is one small business using automation and analytics to grow. Since adoption, InFusion360 has quadrupled its sales pipeline and reduced its sales cycle from 12 weeks to six.

Meanwhile, real-time, AI-powered analytics is giving the business new-found intelligence. InFusion360 CEO, Neil Moodley, explained that the insights help him understand and respond to what’s going on in the business.

“If there’s an issue with pipeline, I can decide if I need to push the team on lead generation or focus everyone on making more sales calls,” he said.

"InFusion360 has quadrupled its sales pipeline and reduced the sales cycle from 12 weeks to six."


The small business of the future


Technology is transforming society, business and customers. To keep playing in this marketplace, small businesses need an AI-enabled, future-proofed technology platform that connects the different functions of the business.

Over the next decade, AI will become the key differentiator in how businesses compete.

Digital is having a faster than expected impact on sales and customer interactions for small business. Find out more by downloading Deloitte’s Small Business Imperatives for the Digital Age report.


Adrian Towsey is Regional Vice President – Commercial Sales at Salesforce. Read more from Adrian Towsey.