Technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics lend themselves seamlessly to the sales process, especially given the amount of data with companies.
Our interactions with artificial intelligence (AI), be it through smartphones, or interfaces like Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home, are increasingly changing the role technology plays in our lives. They have plenty of relevance in business processes too, especially in self-driving cars or drones used by the retail industry for the last mile delivery of goods to customers.
However, the most significant use case of AI so far has emerged in the realm of sales and marketing. It has had an undeniable transformative effect on sales and marketing, enabling marketers and brands to make better decisions and serve customers more effectively. But how? At the most fundamental level, AI is a branch of computer science that deals with making computers behave like humans, but with far greater processing speed than the average brain. A superior intelligence characterises AI with advanced analytical capabilities and the ability to identify patterns from a large volume of data. With the right set of algorithms, machines can process text, images, audio, etc. and comprehend the inherent meaning or patterns within data sets using natural language processing (NLP).
How AI is transforming sales
Technologies like AI and data analytics lend themselves seamlessly to the sales process, and one key factor is the abundance of data created by consumers today across various online and offline touch points, allowing businesses to assimilate information from various disparate sources to glean useful insights. Typically, data from customer relationship management (CRM) database would often remain underutilised in the past, in the absence of tools to analyse it efficiently. However, today, it is much easier to integrate both structured and unstructured data with other internal data sources, to analyse it using algorithms. Sophisticated data analytics can spot patterns or specific trigger within the consumer’s behaviour that sales reps or marketers cannot identify by themselves.
AI continues to transform sales and marketing as we know it, and its relevance will only continue to increase in the future, as businesses look to make sense of a deluge of data they are faced with. Here are three critical aspects of the sales process in which the technology will play a crucial role:
Efficiency: AI-driven automation of processes allows for data to not only be recorded automatically the moment it is created but also categorise it in a much more intelligent manner. This allows salespeople to free themselves from routine, repetitive tasks like entering data into the CRM system, and instead focus on essential functions that require critical thinking or emotional intelligence that a machine cannot offer.
Effectiveness: AI-driven sales guidance can proactively identify and prioritise new opportunities. It can improve effectiveness by suggesting the best strategy to close deals and provide detailed guidance on how one should approach a new prospect.
Enhancement: Cutting-edge AI applications will be able to provide conversation guidance, recording, transcribing and analysing conversations. It will be able to provide insight into what techniques work in a meeting or demo and tailor pitches for every opportunity.
A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that adopting a scientific approach to enhancing the efficiency of the sales force can lead to increased productivity in under-performing sales reps by as much as 200 percent, while raising the average sales rate by 50 percent for each salesperson. Furthermore, the study also highlights how employing AI and CRM together can help a business reduce its costs by up to 60 percent.
How AI enhances the capabilities of salespeople
As AI-driven sales technology evolves, it will not only transform the sales function, it will transform and enhance the lives of salespeople. In the future, sales professionals will wake up to a system that informs them of their scheduled meetings and targets for the day, providing a curated news feed that can assist them in their work and a recommended time to leave home. AI can also provide reminders about relevant information, such as product recommendations, profile details of the key people the sales professional will be meeting, key contacts’ likes and dislikes and what messages will resonate with the group.
During meetings, the AI-driven sales assistant can record the conversation and create notes, capturing takeaways, identifying next steps and updating the CRM system. At the office after the meeting, the AI sales assistant can provide support on action items, creating personalised email drafts, schedule future meetings and provide automated feedback on progress.
While some of the applications of AI discussed above are already widely used, new use cases are continually emerging and being leveraged by early innovators and adopters of the technology. With developments such as these, AI is not only the future of sales but also the here and now, given the massive scale on which it is being used by enterprises worldwide. More importantly, though, it’s a technology that’s also continuously evolving and improving in its abilities. It is critical, then, for businesses to equip their sales force with the knowledge and tools to leverage artificial intelligence, not only enabling them to fulfil their KRAs more effectively but also to help the enterprise become more competitive.