As we look back on the year gone by, few technologies or terms have dominated the enterprise landscape and the public domain like artificial intelligence (AI) did in 2018. Being developed for decades now, AI has already become a technology which both enterprises and consumers use intensively. Just try to imagine a day without Google. Impossible, isn’t it?

AI as technology is constantly being enhanced further and made better at performing complex tasks which humans cannot, thus giving individuals as well as businesses unprecedented capabilities. Sales are one area where the potential for transformation is perhaps the greatest. Rapid technological advancements and proliferation of data are among the key innovations driving AI. And the newly emerging tools are capable of helping both large, and small/mid-sized companies due to the inherent scalability of some of these tools. In fact, smaller businesses can gain a significant edge over their larger counterparts by deploying AI at an enterprise-wide level more swiftly and easily.

Industry analyst Gartner predicted last year that 2018 would be the year AI is democratised, and take on a more prominent role across business functions. This year could see that prediction gain further ground and see AI fundamentally transform sales. But how?

AI-powered tools are already improving efficiency by automating mundane tasks like updating the CRM system. They can collect data from email, phone call transcripts, and meeting reports, creating action items and enhancing customer profiles. This means that salespeople spend much lesser time on these tasks, and have more time to actually sell. Consequently, AI is also changing the sales playbook, a series of frameworks sales teams apply which includes the tactics, objectives, and metrics to close deals.

Here, then, are five ways how businesses can reimagine sales and their sales playbooks with AI:

1. Create dynamic playbooks which act on marketplace changes in real time

Instead of taking an unchanging view of the marketplace based on the old approach, AI-powered playbooks are dynamic and can respond to shifts in demand and competition in a consistent manner.

2. Use training playbooks to match various types of sales opportunities and individual selling styles

AI-powered playbooks can be customised to fit each salesperson’s style of selling. Data – both the customers as well as the salesperson’s – from every interaction carried out with prospects can be optimised for greater success. Since the playbook is designed according to the sales professional’s style and the nature of a selling opportunity, it not only augments overall productivity but also gets smarter over time with its ability to learn from past successes and failures.

3. Adopt affordable playbooks which can transform average salespersons into star sellers

When building a new business, entrepreneurs tend to put off the deployment of technology like AI assuming they do not have the budget, data, or the people needed for its successful implementation. However, that is not entirely true. There are affordable AI tools that can leverage underutilised CRM data to generate new sets of insight-rich information, enabling even smaller enterprises and growing start-ups to build robust sales teams.

4. Access detailed insights into selling opportunities in an unprecedented manner

AI can detect the reasons behind opportunities and identify patterns invisible to others. It can analyse data to learn about where prospects are in the buying cycle, predict when they will need to replace equipment, and discover new marketplace factors that can make or break a sale. With an AI-powered playbook, then, the sales professional becomes armed with an extremely smart blueprint for success.

5. Access long-term dividends by being an early adopter

Contrary to popular belief, using advanced AI technology doesn’t require an on-staff data scientist or deep technical knowledge from the sales team. Thanks to the evolution of computing, the cost of adopting AI today is considerably lesser than the costs that accompany traditional IT infrastructures. It is impossible to deny then that early adoption of AI is a gift that keeps on giving.

AI-driven predictive technologies have helped enhance performance for salespeople recording average sales figures before adopting AI, by up to 100%. On the other hand, salespeople with above-average performance have seen an improvement of up to 20%, simply by heeding the strategic recommendations provided by an AI-powered, dynamic sales playbook. Thus, with such incremental benefits in the long-term, companies can seal their chances of success well into the future.