For anyone’s career, a mentor who is a coach and also a helpful friend is indispensable, both for learning and growing. When I first started out in sales, I wasted a lot of time on administrative work and chasing down the wrong deals. Through these experiences, I discovered what worked, what didn’t, and why I needed to do things differently. And that really continues throughout all of our sales careers — we never stop learning.
What I didn’t have then (and what would have made a huge difference) was a real helper to guide me through the challenges, give me good advice, and handle that administrative stuff so I could go out and sell more. There’s a changing reality for all sales teams: artificial intelligence (AI).
Whether you’re new to sales or a seasoned veteran, let's take a look at several ways AI can be that best friend, mentor, and helper to support you to learn more, sell more, and, most importantly, get paid more.
A sales rep can only be as productive as the time spent selling. Does anyone want to be putting emails and communication notes into the CRM system when they could be on the phone or working on a high-level meeting? Of course not. This is where the helper part of AI really shines. Let AI automate activity logging, identify high-priority emails, and create new contacts for you. Pass off that admin work and start spending your time in more productive ways.
There’s nothing worse than chasing down a deal only to have it end in, well, nothing. All of that time and investment are gone. AI can not only classify what a good deal or account looks like, but also predict which solutions and discounts to offer your customer based on previous successes. Sniffing out a good deal is definitely something reps can learn over time. But why wait when AI can get it done for you right now? Then you can just focus on the right things to go out and get the deals you can actually get done.
After learning forecasting as a rep, it was a whole new world when I became a regional vice president. I had to figure out how to roll up my team’s forecast, which was a big learning curve. Today you can get help from AI to predict a forecast and give an honest outlook on the quarter. It would have been a massive advantage for me to have been able to get a second set of eyes from my AI helper to predict what my team was going to bring in. Now the overzealous forecast can be tempered and the sandbagging eliminated.
When you sell into a company, you have to go back and read through all of the past deals that were lost or won — and there are typically a lot of them. AI helps you to have any or all of that information at your fingertips — and to analyze it. For instance, AI can automatically synchronize — and natural language processing can review — all of the calendar entries and emails as part of the millions of data points it uses to make potential recommendations. All those data points are what you use to find the right lead to call or to close a current deal. Imagine not having to do the dirty work because AI surfaces the predictions that you just can't do yourself. Now that you’re armed with all this information, you can approach the deal differently and with greater likelihood or success.
Prospecting is a tough job. Knowing which lead to call makes you more productive and leads to more success. Figuring that out can be really time consuming — given all of the reports, analysis, and more. Just when you think you have it figured out, one trend or change in the market changes the game and you are back to hunting.
Machine learning identifies patterns to determine which leads are most likely to be converted into a deal. It’s looking at many, many things, from the geography, size of a company, and titles, to engagement such as signing up for a trial or downloading a white paper. This is dynamic; AI is the helper to do this for you in real time, and it’s always up to date.
All in all, one of the biggest challenges with AI is learning to trust it. In the early days of cloud computing, there was a certain level of skepticism: Is my data really safe? Can I really access my files all of the time? Now we don’t think twice about it. The same type of scenario is happening with AI. Often, reps still don’t fully trust an AI recommendation — even when the data backs it up. The whole point of AI is to help sales be more productive and profitable, but it can only happen if we open up to this new type of relationship and information.
“A sales rep can only be as productive as the time spent selling.”