We live in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). From virtual assistants on our smartphones to smart home appliances and self-driving vehicles, AI is firmly integrated into our daily routines.
AI is disrupting the business world as well, even in unlikely arenas that are traditionally human-driven, such as sales.
This doesn’t mean that salespeople will soon entirely be replaced by androids – human interaction is far too important to sales for that to happen. Rather, businesses are realising the need for better analytics – driven by AI – in the sales process. As the sales role becomes more data-driven, it will become smarter and more effective.
Here are some ways AI can improve the sales process – and the advances already making headway.
- Less admin, more performance
Most sales teams rely on a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage business connections and all the information associated with them, such as demographic data, purchasing history, buying habits and so on.
However, CRMs often become a millstone around salespeople’s necks due to outdated information, lack of intuitive functions and the amount of time and effort required to update them to stay effective.
The best tools reduce time spent in administrative work and allow salespeople to focus on closing sales.
Tact, a CRM platform with AI capabilities, is showing promise for the future of sales.
Accessible from any smart device, the software boasts several functions that offer salespeople a more logical and efficient way of working. Instead of switching between a dozen different apps such as LinkedIn, Salesforce, a calculator and email, Tact integrates multiple databases and tools into a single interface. It also automatically logs activities into the CRM tool after each customer interaction, and feeds data back into it from other collaborators. Tasks can be activated through an app, a text or voice command, so the seller can easily call up the information they need while on the road.
In December 2016, the company raised $15 million in a series B funding round. It’s safe to say we can expect to see the development of more tools.
- Higher predictive accuracy and more intelligent recommendations
The e-commerce boom has opened up an entirely new range of strategies that range from basic SEO to arcane techniques – all in a bid to better understand what customers are looking for, and how to sell more.
To this end, Salesforce’s AI-powered add-on to their CRM offering promises to deliver better insights for sales and marketing teams. Einstein aims to provide smart recommendations and predictions based on your Salesforce data. By analysing your historical sales data, the software can automatically prioritise the most promising leads in your pipeline, and explain the factors that determine why a lead is likely to convert or not.
Another feature, Einstein Opportunity Insights, analyses your past sales and monitors your customer interactions to identify unique patterns in your sales cycle and, more importantly, whether a deal is on track or at risk. Einstein then recommends the best course to take to accelerate sales.
Leaving the machines to identify sales opportunities that aren’t being addressed, ranking the opportunities to tackle first and proposing ways to tweak sales techniques for each customer, all allow reps to refine their strategy and increase wins. Going forward, it’s difficult to imagine a future where these technologies won’t be commonplace.
- More effective customer engagement
The process of engaging, nurturing and qualifying leads can now be handled by AI-based applications. In addition to chatbots and other virtual customer service assistants, one promising development in this area comes from Gong.
The startup offers a cloud-based artificial intelligence software that helps to improve the performance and productivity of B2B sales teams. Gong’s AI engine automatically records and transcribes your sales calls with prospects. Then, combining natural language processing tools with machine learning, the software analyses your conversations to help your sales staff enhance their pitch.
AI doesn’t pose a fundamental challenge to the human touch in a sale, and isn't expected to fully replace human salespeople. Instead, the focus is on how companies can integrate AI technologies to leverage efficiencies and optimise their sales process.
From enhanced sales intelligence to intuitive software, there’s a plethora of ways that companies stand to gain huge time savings and dramatically improve their sales. It’s time to embrace our new robotic partners.