The growth of Big Data, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is unavoidable – and sales people are starting to see their role evolve as a result. But given that, on average, only 50% of sales reps make quota each year, you might think such changes are long overdue…


Sales and AI: a new dimension

Sales teams have traditionally only had a two-dimensional view of prospects, but with the emergence of CRM-compatible AI, these same teams now wield a multi-dimensional advantage. Rather than leaning on intuition and perseverance, leads can be prioritised in order of potential success, while the sales pitch itself benefits from new opportunities for personalisation. 

So how can sales make the most of the shift?

The first step is to equip sales teams with the right tech. As Steve Olenski at Forbes says: “When sales managers arm teams with the tools they need to source workable leads and close those leads efficiently, they see higher levels of success.” 

But the tools aren’t enough. Salespeople need training to improve their technical literacy and develop the skills to accommodate the continuous development of Sales AI technology. Ultimately, the sales role will evolve into one that requires dual expertise, and the best practitioners will be those who understand not just the products they sell, but the ways they can harness technology to sell them. 


Big data, meet CRM AI – your new best friend

Sales is no stranger to data, but AI is changing the relationship. It works hand-in-hand with your existing CRM to analyse customer data for high-value, sales-ready leads and prospects. Where the human mind may take too long, AI picks up the slack – turning scrambled data into logically filtered information that offers real value. 

Vanessa Thompson, SVP of Customer Experience Insights at Bluewolf, told TechCrunch: “For a salesperson to predict where to spend their time or take next best action – they need the right data at the right time.” 

AI allows for exactly that – a smart, invisible companion that works seamlessly with your CRM to nail down leads, and highlight the products, services and solutions that best meet customer needs.


Salespeople – AI would like a word

As Alex Terry at CRM Magazine told us: “On average, sales reps spend 80% of their time qualifying leads and only 20% closing” – that’s a serious imbalance, but it’s one most sales managers will recognise.

Imagine if that 80% was spent reaching out to the best prospects, with the human touch. With an AI-enabled CRM, reps can return to what they do best – building great customer relationships and closing deals. Not only will AI relieve staff of mundane tasks, such as firing emails and calls at leads who are in no shape to buy, but it also gives them new freedom to focus their time on closing deals. 

AI’s ability to sieve thousands, if not millions, of leads is great for time-poor sales teams. Identifying those that may benefit from a follow up email, or another a specific pitch, becomes a near-automated and natural part of everyday sales processes.

And AI can help you make the sale better, too. Thanks to the rise of IoT and a growing number of connected devices, customer data can also be recorded and gathered from a rising number of external sources. As such, real-time customer buying behaviour can be analysed by CRM AI to refine its algorithms for the best possible audience targeting and personalised pitches.


Sales AI – just what is it exactly?

If you’ve not already met, I’d like to introduce Salesforce Einstein – your very own AI built right into the heart of the Salesforce platform. Designed to work seamlessly with your existing data, Einstein works constantly to make your CRM smarter – helping you become more productive, and your customers happier. Here are five ways that this is currently achieved: 

  • Lead Scoring. Automatically prioritise the best leads based on your sales history and past deals.
  • Opportunity Insights. Know whether or not a deal is likely to close — identify customer sentiment, competitor involvement, and overall prospect engagement.
  • Account Insights. See key business developments pertinent to your accounts --  stay up on your customers’ latest news, M&A activity, and company expansion updates.
  • Activity Capture. Eliminate data entry with email and calendar connectivity.
  • Automated Contacts. Analyse emails and calendar events, identify new contacts and any Contact Role relationships, and surface suggestions for automatically adding new records to your CRM.

As of summer 2017, it’s still early days for Einstein, but that hasn’t stopped Coca-Cola and Amazon Web Services (AWS) jumping on board to reap the benefits of Sales AI.

In fact, with Salesforce Einstein, AWS has been able to AI-power its entire lead-to-cash process.


Amazon Web Services (AWS) lead-to-cash with Sales AI

As always, it starts with a lead. A gated webinar page invites a potential participant to enter their details. But this is no ordinary page; it’s a Salesforce page. Einstein, working behind the scenes, captures the lead’s details and feeds them into AWS’s own Sales Cloud-powered lead list. Here, Einstein scours the lead’s contact and engagement history before scoring success potential for the rep’s convenience. 

Within the system, AWS sales reps enjoy a structured list of leads ordered by the likelihood of closing a deal at that time. To boost productivity, they can also click any lead for a detailed summary of contact details, engagement history, and the products, services or pitches suited to the lead. 

To ensure no lead goes to waste, Einstein enables reps to route leads to other salespeople and marketers based on scoring. For example, a lead with a low score is unlikely to be ready to buy, so rather than wasting time pitching, Einstein will reroute them to a marketer to further nurture their sales journey. 

Contacting leads is also painless with built-in voice IP. And to ensure that all calls are meaningful, Einstein immediately unpacks the reasons for the lead’s score so the internal salesperson knows everything associated with that person’s sales journey. An outside sales rep will then get an alert on their phone with a new opportunity customised by Einstein based on their role. From here, the rep can travel to the lead and present a bespoke quote sourced straight from the Salesforce app. 

It doesn’t end there. The pitch may be going smoothly, but there’s still the final administrative push to close the deal. Using Salesforce Quip, sales reps can converse with leads in a living, real-time collaborative document. In this case, the quote formed by Einstein is submitted via Quip to the customer for their review. A seamless and easy back and forth is exchanged until the deal closes. 

But what does AWS think of it? Here’s what Ariel Kelman, VP of worldwide marketing at AWS, had to say:

We’re like kids in a candy store with all these new capabilities, so we’re looking to expand this usage around the company to manage more and more processes. And then on the customer side it’s really about extending the integration that we’re doing between our products, so that we can make it easier for our customers to be successful doing what they really want to do – which is run more and more of their business in the cloud. And if you think about the combination of Salesforce and AWS, you’re taking the lion’s share of what people want to run in the cloud and making it easy for them.


AI take-away: the benefits of AI and sales cohabitation

The role of the salesperson is evolving. That much is true, and how you accommodate that evolution is vital to the ongoing success of your business. By integrating Sales AI with your existing sales process, your salespeople – both internal and external – can benefit from:

  1. Improved morale and motivation (and commission!) among salespeople who enjoy more chances to close better deals
  2. Meaningful conversations every time, thanks to Einstein lead scoring and synopsis
  3. More time for the human touch as AI takes off the pressure of lead management 
  4. Painless personalisation of messaging and pitches to keep leads from slipping away
  5. Seamless, real-time collaboration with leads on Quip with Einstein-informed quoting

To discover more about how Sales AI can revolutionise your sales team’s practices for the better, download our e-book on AI for CRM to find out everything you need to know to start selling, smarter.