When was the last time you used AI? It’s probably more often than you’d think: from the chatbots on your bank app to the servers that process and analyse your data so that companies can target you more efficiently, AI is fast becoming a common part of our lives.
That includes the world of business, too. Sales has changed a lot in the past few decades, and that’s partly thanks to massive leaps in technology that have taken us from cold calls to smart targeting on social media platforms. The next thing on the horizon is AI, and it’s set to revolutionise sales once more. With investment increasing by more than 300% over this year, eight in ten businesses are planning to adopt AI within the workplace, to handle everything from customer services to managing sales pipelines.
But what does this mean for people working within sales, and how could it change your job?
We’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know.
What is it?
AI promises to be a huge step forward in the sales industry. Today’s smart computers use algorithms to process huge amounts of data in a fraction of the time it takes a human. As a result, they can analyse data, spot trends and even automate processes like sending emails and identifying leads, essentially acting as a second ‘brain’ for sales teams.
Smarter AIs go even further, simulating human intelligence to ‘learn’ from previous findings and apply these learnings to analyses: for instance, a smart AI can act as a chatbot, learning from previous conversations to better anticipate customer needs, and can even draft up contracts- all in a matter of seconds. Given that the market is estimated to be worth $1.2tn globally by 2020, it’s clear that demand for it is high, and for good reason.
How can I use it?
This ‘second brain’ really has the potential to change the life of sales people for the better, acting as a personal assistant of sorts that can help in everything from lead generation to managing performance. There are numerous sales-focussed AIs in the market, such as BaseCRM, whose AI platform learns from interactions that sales people have with clients. This allows the AI to better provide them with feedback, intelligent alerts, and even some analysis of customers, helping customers to grow their customer base. AI can also act as a sales assistant, identifying leads and even engaging them in first conversations to help speed the sales process along.
Whether you want help in identifying leads, or in automating parts of the process- and freeing up your time to concentrate on things that you’re passionate about- AI is designed to make your job easier, and your prospecting more successful.
How can it help the sales team- and in which areas?
AI is best equipped to take care of mundane, repetitive tasks, like updating databases or automating your work diary. This is useful in itself, especially given that 64% of sales representatives’ time is taken up with tasks like these. It’s extremely versatile, and smarter AIs open up the possibility for sales people to tailor the service they get to their respective needs in the workplace. For instance, AI algorithms can tell you what the ideal discount rate should be for a proposal- based on previous data of won or lost deals- or gather historical data on clients and potential clients, as well as their interactions with your company, in order to identify whether there are any opportunities for them in the pipeline. Once that’s been done, the AI can even initiate contact via and email or a text.
It’s not just the day-to-day tasks that AI can help sales teams with, however: it also has great potential for management. By analysing company data, good AIs can forecast what a team’s total sales numbers will be every quarter. Furthermore, sales managers can monitor their team’s revenue, pipelines and client accounts, making them better able to see which accounts need more attention, and which sales people need more support at the time.
What are the benefits?
The main benefits to AI lie in greater simplicity, speed and efficiency. Not only does AI take care of mundane tasks for you, it also lets you do your job faster, and with greater accuracy than perhaps could be done without the help of a computer. The result? Sales people have more time to concentrate on completing tasks that might not ordinarily receive enough attention- or on researching the client and product. It’s already being used: 83% of sales teams use it to aid in customer retention. At the same time, 74% are using it to increase their sales velocity: whatever you think about AI, it’s clear that it’s already having a marked impact upon the industry.
Will it replace the team?
To put it bluntly, no. There’s a very slim chance sales managers will have their role automated in the future, and indeed, the way in which AI is currently being used by sales teams rather suggests that AI will be used in an advisory capacity in the future- at least until machine learning advances significantly.
In addition to this, relationships still drive the sales industry: an average of 6.8 people are involved in the buying process, and it’s all down to strong client relationships that buyers will settle for a deal, or choose to come back to a certain company. Machines can’t grasp these social nuances yet, and many clients prefer to interact with humans rather than robots. As a result, though it will likely impact the role of the sales person, making it more customer-focussed than before, AI presents far more opportunities than challenges to the sales workforce.
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