Or why artificial intelligence for CRM matters to small companies that want to win.


A.I. – Artificial Intelligence. In the last two years, the world has been flooded with buzzy predictions about the promises and potential of AI for business. Accompanied by a wave of consumer AI products like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google’s language translation services, it’s hard to miss the hoopla, even if you’re living under a rock.

But for a lot of business people out there, particularly those that aren’t at large enterprises, the initial surge of curiosity easily gives way to shrugs as they return to doing what they need to do to keep the lights on: Get down to the business of finding new prospects, working leads, and closing deals.

For these businesses there’s rightly an attitude of, “Great. I get it. AI is the next shiny thing. But until you can show me how it’s really gonna work day-to-day in my business, I’m out.”

Others worry that the promise may be all too real, believing that indeed AI is here — and ready to replace them.

Interestingly, the response to both of these schools of thought is the same: Not only is AI here, but for businesses that are smaller or just getting started on their paths to success, the way AI solves day-to-day business problems means making the people you have better, smarter, more efficient, and more critical than ever — rather than obsolete and replaceable.

And, in fact, AI will change the answer to some of any business’s most basic questions like:

  • How can I sort through leads faster and know which are best to follow up on?
  • How can I help a customer who doesn’t even know the name of the part they’re trying to fix? (“I don’t know what it’s called — it’s the little do-hickey in the thingamabob that isn’t working.”)
  • Why are customers leaving items in their shopping carts on my website?

If even just one of the three questions seems familiar to you – then read on.


Artificial intelligence is especially exciting for growing businesses that want to:

  • Be smarter with leads to sell more efficiently
  • Drive an outstandingly great customer experience, everywhere
  • Pinpoint what customers want and adjust to give to them

Simply put, the new world of AI isn’t just for enterprises anymore. The combination of huge computing power advances and a world dominated by cloud-enabled, data-producing devices and apps changed the game. And companies like Salesforce, which have been committed to democratizing the technology of customer relationship management for years, are now doing the same for AI.

So AI is real. But how real? And how does all that matter to a business like yours? Probably the first thing to understand is that the AI people are already experiencing in movie recommendations, driving apps, and voice commands is changing their expectations. And the “they” here is none other than your customer. Quite simply, their experience of AI in consumer apps means they expect you to know more about them so that you can do more for them, even giving them the help and answers they’re looking for before they ask. Automatically.

Things like:

  • How much they’re interested in buying something from you (or not) and what they’re interested in buying – before you talk to them
  • How to fix problems for them before problems even become remotely obvious
  • The understanding to show them more of what they want and be right about it more often

AI not only helps you meet the increasing challenges of these customer expectations, but it allows the great sales, service, and marketing people you have to be even better. So instead of spending time building models, creating theories and strategies, and generally doing a lot of homework before your folks talk to a customer or prospect, that work is done and your people can not only get to YES faster, but move on to the next possible YES faster. And that, in turn, has a positive halo effect, giving your employees and you more confidence to try new things.

More importantly, this augmentation of their abilities means when they do get to YES, they’re closing more deals, faster, driving more sales revenue and, consequently, growth. And growth leads to needing more people. For sales. For service. For marketing. For everything.

By now it should be clear that what AI can do for a growing business is more than just a promise — and also clear just how much more AI may be able to do for your business in the future. But how can you be *sure* you’re working with a CRM partner who can really make it real?

Quite frankly, this is where the CRM platform you choose to build on (or with) will make a big difference to the AI you end up with today. And tomorrow. Because when you choose a platform, you’re not just choosing software to help you; you’re choosing a company to help you.

With regards to AI, you should consider the following things:

  1. Is the company you’re evaluating really committed to AI?
  2. Does the company you’re evaluating truly understand CRM related business processes?
  3. Is the company you’re evaluating committed to using AI to solve the kinds of problems you’re facing in your business every day?
  4. Is the company you’re evaluating committed to your overall success? Does it have a vision for making you successful beyond today?
  5. Does the company have the kind of data, as well as the quantity and quality of data, that will make the AI services you’re accessing better, smarter, and more relevant from the get go?

Let’s take a closer look at these questions in the context of Salesforce which recently launched Einstein as its AI service. Salesforce is 100% in the cloud with millions of users, so the business data that Salesforce Einstein can source is already deep — and growing. And as the world’s #1 CRM, that data is relevant to business critical functions in sales, service, marketing — and almost every role imaginable that can affect the customer relationship.

Furthermore, Salesforce, which releases three upgrades a year, is continually improving and innovating for its customers and has been named one of the world’s most innovative companies by Forbes for five years in a row. Its subscription-based business model ensures a vested interest in continuing this quest to bring customers the best in technology in the future as well.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s clear from acquisitions (MetaMind, RelateIQ, Implisit, PredictionIO, and others) that Salesforce is committed to bringing AI to all, just the way it has been committed to bringing a best-in-class CRM platform to all. With an emphasis on helping its customers do more, it’s making AI available on a scale for businesses that has never been seen before.

Over the last 40 years, businesses have seen huge transformations in processes and customer expectations due to technological advancements. Artificial Intelligence is one of those leaps. While the way partners will make it available is often invisible, it’s clear the results will be both real and tangible for sales, service, and marketing groups, and businesses as whole. The best solutions will bake intelligence into apps that are used every day and be available to everyone in any sized company. The only real question isn’t whether or not you’ll be affected by AI, but how soon you’ll be using it to affect your business in a way that brings new opportunities for your employees, your customers, and your growth.

These days, there are apps that can help you solve almost any problem, but it’s easy to find that a year or two down the road you have dozens of disconnected apps. Information that can be useful to your business — or that you might need in a hurry — is siloed and hard to find. Beware of point solutions! Before you invest in new technologies, make sure you’re looking at apps that can be connected to each other or that come in a platform solution with plug-and-play connectivity to new apps. Sharing your data is essential to your small business growth strategy because it provides the kind of experience today’s customers expect.


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