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I was recently at a workshop where, in a lively discussion, one stakeholder insisted it’s important to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) while another argued that AI is too futuristic.

This discussion made me wonder: As a sales leader, how can you distinguish AI speculation from reality and make decisions about whether to invest in a particular technology?

I recommend you start small. Be outcomes-minded. Ask yourself what you’re trying to solve.

Ultimately, however, I think using a “guided selling” framework is the most effective way for sales leaders to decide what technology their sellers use — and where AI fits in.

What Is Guided Selling?

You might be familiar with guided selling as a feature, or product, in a modern-day CRM or CPQ (Configure Price Quote) tool, but I see guided selling as a framework to approach sales effectiveness and productivity. It’s a system that leverages data to guide sellers through their sales process. Guided selling gives a rep a better way of selling to customers by recommending paths or steps based on data, not instinct.

AI can be a major help in this technique’s success.

For example, if you’re trying to improve your sales team’s performance, you could use the guided selling framework to benchmark your team. Does your team currently have all the tools, processes, and people in place to answer:

  • What do I sell?

  • At what price?

  • To what customer?

At Bluewolf, we approach guided selling and sales transformation from a design thinking perspective — how can I design a better experience (versus a process) for sellers? Empathizing with sellers and buyers is the first step, so we use the question format, as opposed to simply stating requirements, to ensure we put ourselves in a seller’s shoes.

How to Put Guided Selling into Practice

Do your sellers have the answers to those three questions at their fingertips? How long does it currently take them to find the answers? How often do they simply make an educated guess?

If you don’t have AI in place for your sales team, it’s likely members spend time manually searching for answers to those questions — in multiple tools and from various sources internally.

But you have to walk before you can run. Guided selling existed prior to AI and is well-suited to help you understand how to invest in AI for your sales teams.

Some organizations may be just starting out with guided selling, by automating repetitive sales tasks using a CRM. Others have implemented a question-and-answer system for sellers. A few use AI to create a predictive guided selling solution for sellers — instead of responding to  questions, the system predictively recommends products and prices for the highest propensity offer.

Real-World Guided Selling Scenarios

Here are a few real-world examples of what guided selling looks like, in various maturity levels:

  • Basic: A sales rep selects “U.S. Product Catalog” in their CRM and is presented with a list of products only available to U.S. customers.

  • Medium: When pricing a deal, reps are provided with a “suggested price” based on historically similar deals and customer demographics. Reps then use a probability meter to modify pricing and see the likelihood of the deal closing in real time. CPQ solutions easily handle this.

  • Advanced (with AI): A rep quotes to an existing customer. Based on customer data (emails, prior quotes, existing sales contract), an AI tool produces three different quotes for multiquote comparison, which speeds up the renewal cycle.

Where to Start with Guided Selling

Most customers pursue guided selling through CPQ technology mainly because guided selling is pre-packaged in CPQ. So, one great starting point for companies is to use CPQ technology to navigate the ever-growing sales tool tech stack. CPQ with AI on top predicts and prescribes actions before a rep even asks. Ultimately, by changing the selling experience, companies improve their customer experience.

The next time you hear about the role of AI in sales, ask yourself — does it fit into a guided selling system to help me sell better, sell more, and sell faster? If yes, then it’s probably worth paying attention to.

If you don’t have AI in place for your sales team, it’s likely members spend time manually searching for answers to those questions — in multiple tools and from various sources internally. ”

Raymond Juarez | Vice President & Practice Leader, Bluewolf, an IBM Company

Learn More

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