Despite being in development for decades, artificial intelligence (AI) has made leaps and bounds in the past several years, largely thanks to the availability of mass amounts of data and cheap computing power. While data is a good thing for sales, processing it without the right tools can lead to information overload.
Fortunately, there are now some innovative AI tools that allow businesses to leverage data for better efficiency. One exciting way companies are using AI is in their sales and marketing departments. Here are a variety of the ways in which artificial intelligence influences sales today and will do so in the future.
AI-Powered Personal Assistants
Few salespeople truly enjoy cold-calling or pursuing dead-end leads. Some sales activities that are ingrained have become massive time-wasters. One of the greatest leaps forward with sales and artificial intelligence is the development of learning intelligent virtual sales assistants. These “robots” can perform some of the same tasks as humans, such as carrying on simple conversations and scheduling appointments.
AI-Powered Task Automation
If you've seen the movie “Office Space,” you probably identified with the struggle of the modern office worker. Writing reports and handling mundane tasks like scheduling and emails is part of the territory, but probably not something that brings salespeople joy. Fortunately, AI is becoming so advanced that it can handle some automated tasks and most people are none the wiser.
Take The Associated Press, for example. This major news organization is using AI-powered software to write some of its news stories. The company was able to expand its reporting of mundane quarterly earnings stories from 300 to 4,400 with the software while devoting its human reporters to more important stories.
“Our journalists will focus on reporting and writing stories about what the numbers mean and what gets said in earnings calls on the day of the release, identifying trends and finding exclusive stories we can publish at the time of the earnings reports.”
There are sales programs today that use AI to intelligently email back and forth with prospects until it becomes time to schedule a phone call or face to face meeting. When that time comes, the program will consult the salesperson's calendar and set up the meeting.
Smart Lead Generation
The AI sales assistant of the future will perform some automated tasks, but these systems will also deliver a service with much greater value. Artificial intelligence will enable smart lead generation.
In the future of sales, AI will dig into all available data sources and determine whether or not today is a good day to call a certain prospect. If so, they will identify what time might be the best time to call. On top of that, AI will help dig further into a potential or existing client's wants and needs. This can help with upsells or by giving you a prompt that an existing client would be a good candidate for a new product or service.
AI to Identify Better Sales Hires
It can be a struggle to put together a winning sales team. Candidates who “sell” themselves well in an interview might not perform once brought into the fold. Conversely, some of the best salespeople might not want to jump ship from their current positions or even have a resume online. Accenture reports in a study that 94 percent of recruiters have used big data to identify new candidate sources. In the future, an AI system can be on the constant lookout for top sales performers across industries, searching for signs that a salesperson may be willing to move, and even assemble lists of the top qualities and skill sets required for a successful salesperson in a particular organization.
Analytics-Backed Sales Intelligence
IBM reports that as much as 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day, which is astounding. What's disappointing, though, is that 90% of that data is never analyzed or used for any meaningful business decisions. In fact, over half of the data that's captured begins to lose value within seconds after being generated. Using big data and machine learning, enterprises can sift through this data and discover where to look for the most meaningful information to help sales staff target the right customers at the right time.
AI's Use in Prescriptive Sales
Growth without having to hire a bigger sales force is an ideal situation. While that might not make sense on the surface, it does equate when you do the math. One study determined that 67 percent of sales professionals fail to meet their quotas. A large part of this failure stems from an inability by sales people to truly understand customer needs.
“40 percent of salespeople can't understand customer pain. When dealing with a customer problem, the sales rep is more likely to “panic and offer up the first solution that comes to mind.” Only 61% of sales reps feel confident about uncovering customer problems”
Using artificial intelligence to analyze all data points associated with a selling process helps to identify common customer pain points along the way. This in turn enables the creation of a more comprehensive prescriptive sales approach, and ultimately makes sellers more confident and better closers.
While it's possible that in the future of sales, a few positions will be replaced by robots, the more likely scenario is that artificial intelligence is going to continue to augment the sales process in some new and exciting ways. Not only will AI empower sales teams to be more effective, but these tools will also make sure that the right products and services are finding the right customers.
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