Forecasting anything these days – be it the weather, the movement of the stock market or the buying habits of customers – can feel a bit like shaking a Magic 8 Ball and crossing your fingers that you get the “outlook good” response and not the “don’t count on it” response.
Uncertain and unstable times can make the future seem hazy from any angle.
But when it comes to sales, artificial intelligence (AI) can cut through the haze with clarity, delivering the insights that sales leaders are depending on more than ever to drive success. Indeed, the recent State of Sales report found high-performing sales teams were 2.8 times more likely to use AI than underperformers.
We’ve seen what powerful a tool AI can be in improving efficiencies and reducing the burden of manual admin tasks. But AI’s capabilities don’t begin and end with automation. AI’s capacity for interpreting a vast array of data points means it can help sales teams develop ever more accurate forecasts.
For AI, there’s no such thing as too much information. In fact, the more information it has to deal with, the better its predictive analyses will be. From the most granular details of a customer’s history and preferences, to big picture shifts in the market and economy, AI thrives on a data-rich diet.
Think, for example, of how many data points might be involved in forecasting the success of a single deal: who is the customer and what information have they shared in previous interactions with the organisation? What is the opportunity or product in question? Which salesperson is making the pitch and what have their tendencies revealed in the past? What kind of success has the organisation had with this product? What has the marketing journey been for this opportunity? The variables are immense, and AI-powered tools can interpret them all to reveal an accurate forecast.
AI takes a huge amount of the guesswork – and the busy work – out of forecasting so sales team leaders aren’t constantly swinging between overestimating and underestimating their team’s prospects and abilities.
And what about potentially extended sales cycles or changing deal sizes? The right AI tool makes it possible to keep forecasts accurate, even as the conditions around the opportunity shift. With the real-time visibility provided by an AI-powered CRM, sales reps are never having to play catch up or rely on gut instinct to make their next move.
AI isn’t just about predicting which deals will be successful. It can also play a powerful role in helping sales teams develop long term, personalised relationships with their customers. Indeed, the Trends in ANZ Sales report shows that after forecasting accuracy, understanding customer needs and personalisation for customers tie as AI’s second top use cases for ANZ sales leaders.
AI-powered CRM platforms, for instance, can help humanise interactions between sales teams and their customers or leads by extracting and applying insights from data that can be used to build trust and deliver relevant and timely offerings.
High-performing sales teams are 1.5 x more likely to use AI to log sales data and customer notes, recognising the critical importance of this kind of information to creating a 360-degree view of the customer and ensuring more accurate forecasts.
And with Salesforce research showing 52% of customers expect offers to always be personalised, it’s no wonder sales teams are augmenting their traditionally volume-based success metrics with KPIs based around customer satisfaction.
hat we start to see, in fact, is that AI’s capacity for personalising customer interactions goes hand in hand with its ability to forecast accurately. The more customer data AI can interpret, the more personalised experiences it can deliver and the more accurate its forecasting will be.
Look at it like this: sales AI can provide the insights you need to understand what might be holding a customer back from committing to a deal. It both predicts the likely outcome of an offer (that’s the forecast) and provides the insights you need to make the offer more appealing to the customer (that’s the personalisation).
It’s not surprising that there’s been a 26% increase in Australian and New Zealand sales organisations using AI between 2018 and 2020.
Here at Salesforce, we’ve seen the impact of AI across forecasting and personalisation. Together, these powerful AI use cases – accurate forecasting and personalisation to meet customer needs – can help sales teams cement their position as trusted advisors at the same time as strengthening business continuity planning and driving growth.
Want more insights into how sales teams are using technology to drive success? Download the Boosting Sales Productivity ebook here.