Innovating Sales – How Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Can Transform Sales Productivity
The sales landscape has changed forever thanks to machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). No, robots aren’t taking over the sales floor. Instead, ML and AI are making salespeople dramatically better at selling. That’s because this technology augments what salespeople can do while enabling them to focus more attention on what matters most: selling.
First, let’s get a handle on the terms. ML is the ability to give a computer access to data and let it use algorithms to learn things from that data all on their own—without being programmed. Over time, as the computer gathers more data and learns from experience, it progressively improves its performance on a specific task.
AI is a computer’s ability to leverage what it has learned to carry out tasks that normally require human intelligence. Since ML is a specific application of AI, let’s just use the term AI.
When applied to the sales process, AI is capable of astounding things.
AI Supercharges Outbound Prospecting
AI is the perfect tool for efficiently engaging prospects through outbound marketing. Landing customers often means casting a wide net by sending emails to an enormous number of targeted accounts. This process involves curating lists, building the messaging and its cadence, sending out the emails, processing bounced emails, and wading through responses in the attempt to identify qualified prospects.
Right now, AI tools can automate these difficult and time-consuming tasks. But it goes beyond simple automation. These tools can also identify the best leads and interact with them through emails that read as though they were coming from the salesperson and not a computer.
When the tool detects that a prospect is ready for a call, it notifies the sales person and gives them the information it has gathered during the conversations it has had with the prospect. That information might include the best number to call or the best time to call. If the prospect desires, the tool can also set up the appointment, send out an invite, and send a reminder prior to the call all on its own. And, of course, all this activity is fed back into the salesperson’s CRM.
Additionally, AI tools can scour the Internet, including rich data sources such as LinkedIn and Salesforce, to generate a personality profile of a prospect. Armed with this information, the salesperson can tailor their communication to the individual needs and preferences of that prospect.
By offloading the heavy lifting of the research, engagement, and nurturing processes, AI allows sales teams to cover more ground and interact with more prospects in ways that are more meaningful. The impact is that organizations can grow by closing more deals and generating more revenue, all without increasing their headcount.
AI Delivers Pipeline Intelligence
Pipeline management and sales forecasting are crucial to every salesperson’s success. The better a salesperson is at managing their pipeline the more they can target their efforts and predict when deals will close. However, as tight as sales managers would like their team’s pipelines to be, forecasting is based on gut assumptions.
New AI tools bring science and accuracy into the pipeline management equation. They can analyze thousands of data points relating to deal conversion and distill them down into actionable information. By leveraging a salesperson’s sales history and how prospects have moved through the pipeline in the past, AI tool can perform analytics that predict which leads are likely to convert and when.
AI tools can go beyond predicting what will happen. They can also provide real business intelligence by explaining why something happened. For instance, if a deal is lost, the salesperson can use the tool to see that the prospect only makes purchases in 1-year cycles. Because it’s only been 9 months since their last purchase, they simply aren’t ready to make another purchase. This can help sales teams identify pipeline gaps and modify their sales strategy with a higher level of certainty.
AI Empowers Efficient Coaching
Better monitoring of the sales pipeline also allows for the identification of effective coaching opportunities. Instead of having to wait for these opportunities to arise, or actively hunting for them, sales managers can use AI tools to push team performance through personalized coaching.
An AI tool can continuously analyze sales activities throughout the organization. Based on the data, the tool can identify top performers and highlight what factors are contributing to their success. With this knowledge in hand, managers can coach team members to execute activities that will help them reach the same performance level. Members of the team can also get personalized reports that support self-coaching.
The Next Wave of Sales Technology Is Here
While it’s true that the sales function is in the early stages of moving from automation to true intelligence, it’s clear that the next wave of sales technology is here. This technology will produce smarter and more personalized communications, create pipeline clarity, and make salespeople confident that the sales message they present is tailored to each prospect. To be sure, AI will drive measurable improvements in sales productivity.