3 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Uprooting Sales

September 24th, 2019 by blogadmin Leave a reply »

In 2015, Forrester caused a storm to brew when it announced that artificial intelligence (AI) would replace one million B2B sales jobs by 2020. This bold headline, however, failed to capture the entire picture. Sure, if sales reps continue to rely on age-old practices like cold calling and distributing spray-and-pray marketing collateral, their days are surely numbered. Yet, on the other hand, artificial intelligence has failed to live up to business expectations. Case in point: according to a recent white paper by Pactera Technologies and Nimdzi Insights, 85% of artificial intelligence projects fail to deliver on their intended promises to business. Artificial intelligence and human sales reps are not mutually exclusive entities. If sales reps adapt and exploit the ever-increasing capabilities of AI, they seek to gain from the emergence of AI.

Automating repetitive tasks

The majority of a sales rep’s time (63%) is consumed by non-revenue-generating activities. AI has enormous potential to free up sales reps’ time so that they can focus more effectively on selling, building relationships, and closing deals.

According to McKinsey, about half of a sales rep’s workload consists of activities that can be automated by AI. Consider, for example, time management and scheduling. Less than one third (28%) of sales reps adhere to a structured time management methodology. AI-powered scheduling and calendaring solutions go a long way in terms of transforming time management into time intelligence. Woven, for example, is an AI-powered calendar app created by Tim Campos, the former CIO of Facebook. Woven uses natural language processing to scan users’ email inboxes for signs of meeting requests. Its virtual assistant then generates suggested times to meet and sends emails to attendees to select a time option. The app even uses location data to account for travel time between meeting destinations.

Taking it one step further, it’s not all that hard to conceive of an app that gives sales reps recommendations as to how they should prioritize their days, depending on their chronotype.

In addition to scheduling, sales reps squander hours each day on email. The majority of sales reps’ time is spent on sales technology (62.8%), with sales-related email ravaging most of their time (33.2%). AI-powered apps can liberate sales reps from living in their inboxes. Crystal Knows, for example, uses AI and natural language processing to predict customers’ personalities and, in turn, create personalized email templates that will garner the best responses. It offers sales reps recommendations for specific language and phrasing, thereby saving them a lot of time scribing emails from scratch.

Identifying the best leads

Lead scoring is at the heart of any successful demand generation strategy. Enhancing lead scoring capabilities is top-of-mind for sales and marketing professionals alike. While lead scoring methods have become more refined, we’ve only scratched the surface. Only 17% of organizations rate their lead scoring initiatives as highly effective. Today, most leads that are passed from marketing to sales are of decent quality, but are not sales-ready. According to research by Demand Gen, an eye-popping 70% of marketing executives believe that the leads passed to sales are of decent quality, but many are not sales-ready. The result is that sales outreach is subpar. This speaks to why 50% of sales time today is spent on unproductive prospecting.

Enter AI. AI can monitor an arsenal of different signals to predict a specific lead’s readiness to purchase. Research by Gleanster Research reveals that half of leads are qualified, but not yet ready to buy. AI can unearth the lucrative sales-ready leads. B2B consumers are using more channels to engage with vendors than ever before—from review sites to social media platforms to online communities. AI can mine these platforms for buying signals, couple them with demographic, firmographic, and technographic information, and pinpoint which leads are sales-ready. It can account for nuances such as sentiment to predict buying propensity. In an ideal world, AI allows sales reps to transition from predictive to prescriptive selling by isolating why a lead is a particularly good fit.

Less than half of sales reps have data insights on customers’ propensities to buy. Yet, according to Harvard Business Review, companies that use AI for sales are able to increase their leads by 50%. AI helps eliminate the guesswork and empowers sales reps to focus their time most productively.

Enhancing customer relationships

A close read of Forrester’s report reveals that AI will affect different types of sales professionals differently. For “order takers”, who process customer orders that could be filled via self-serve channels, for “explainers”, who provide buyers with information about complex products, and for “navigators”, who help buyers understand what their companies need to purchase, job loss will be 33%, 25%, and 15%, respectively. But, for “consultants”, who help buyers understand what they need to purchase and who have vast knowledge about the buyer’s company, there won’t be any job loss. In fact, this subset will witness a 10% gain in available jobs.

The sales reps of the future will be a different breed compared to their ancestors. They will assume the essential role of consultants and advisors, leveraging AI to gain the trust and favor of customers. 79% of business buyers say it’s very important or absolutely critical to engage with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor and who adds value to their business. With a deeper understanding of customers’ needs, sales reps will be able to have more relevant and engaging conversations with customers. With knowledge of customers’ pain points, their reasons for buying, what obstacles need to be overcome, and which decision-makers are at the table, sales reps can creatively solve complex business problems that customers face.

We’ve come a long way since the term “artificial intelligence” was coined in 1955. Only in our current era has the sales profession started to realize the potential of AI. Contrary to some media headlines, AI will never uproot sales professionals entirely. The sales professionals of the future will work in tandem with AI, exploiting—and embracing—its capabilities to acquire new superpowers. Businesses that combine AI with human insights witness a 66% boost in productivity and a 61% increase in customer satisfaction, according to research by Forrester. The key is the marriage between AI’s IQ and humans’ EQ.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2019/09/19/3-ways-artificial-intelligence-is-uprooting-sales/#38ce05704df1

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