Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ
Artificial intelligence is the future of sales. That’s not to say robots are going to replace sales teams (at least not in our careers), but it will transform the way SDRs, sales executives and managers work. In fact, there’s a good chance AI is having a significant impact on sales floors already.
Marketing and sales teams lead all departments in AI adoption, according to Dresner Advisory Services’ sixth annual 2019 Data Science and Machine Learning Market Study. 40% of the marketing and sales teams studied said that AI was a crucial part of their success.
A study by Forrester had similar findings. The market research company found that almost half of the companies they surveyed were investing most heavily in AI for marketing and sales departments.
If you haven’t experienced the benefits that AI can bring, you probably will very soon. According to Salesforce, AI ist the “top growth area” for sales teams, with adoption expected to increase by 139% over the next three years.
There’s a good reason sales and marketing teams are investing so heavily in AI. According to a Harvard Business Review by Thomas Baumgartner, Homayoun Hatami and Maria Valdivieso, companies that use AI in the sales process:
- Increase leads by more than 50%
- Reduce call time by 60-70%
- Reduce costs by 40-60%
Intrigued by the prospect of AI? We don’t blame you. Whet your appetite by discovering five of the most impactful ways AI can be implemented in sales below.
1. Smarter Sales Training
AI sales training platforms can deliver real-time, personalised training at scale by monitoring call data and other sales activity. Speak too much on the last call or use a weak opening line? A tool like Gong will let you know. AI platforms can also analyse what your top-performing sales reps do differently, so managers can share that information with the rest of your team and to improve overall performance.
Previously, reps had to wait until their weekly coaching meeting to get feedback on their progress or work through problems. Thanks to AI, they can now get that coaching data served in real-time, writes Mark Savinson, the Chief Operating Officer at Strategy to Revenue. “By building learning content into the software to support the sales models they advocate, organisations can ensure colleagues get role-specific, tailored learning paths built into the fabric of the sales process.”
AI will let you tailor your sales training at scale, says Melissa Hilbert, a senior research director at Gartner. Whether that’s visually, orally or through any other medium, AI-powered coaching tools can track call data in real-time and allow managers and SDRs to listen back, look at graphs or read transcripts. This solves the problem of individual learning styles, says Hilbert. If training is only delivered through one medium, there will soon be an imbalance in your team’s performance. When it’s delivered through multiple methods, you can ensure that every rep receives effective training that works for them.
2. Predictive Sales Forecasting
Sales managers already use the data they have available to predict sales figures for each member of their team and the department as a whole. Yet while the amount of data available has certainly grown in the last two decades, pipeline forecasting often has a not-insignificant margin of error. But now AI is helping to eliminate that gap entirely.
Using an AI algorithm, managers are now able to predict with a high degree of accuracy next quarter’s revenue,” says Victor Antonio at Havard Business Review, “which in turn would help a company, from an operations standpoint, to better manage inventory and resources.”
Falon Fatemi, the CEO and founder of Node, believes “AI is the gold key to unlock accurate sales forecasting.” Up to this point, managers had to rely solely on historical data to predict the future. Now, AI can use potential future conditions to predict the likelihood of which deals close and give a much more accurate picture.
This is a powerful development. “Accurate forecasting is the lifeblood of a thriving business,” says Fatemi. “With accurate forecasting, sales organisations are better able to meet targets, allocate budgets, and accurately define sales territories.”
“Accurate forecasting is the lifeblood of a thriving business”
3.Admin Tasks on Auto-Pilot
Research by McKinsey has found that 45% of all work activities could be automated using existing technology. This is as true for sales reps as it is for any professional. As much as two-thirds of a salesperson’s day is spent on administrative activities, according to a Salesforce Research report.
Research by InsideSales.com also found that reps spend almost two-thirds of their time on non-selling activities. “When 63 percent of salespeople’s time is focused on activities other than selling—whether by necessity due to policies and tools or to lack of process and organisation—revenue suffers,” says Lindsey Armstrong, President of InsideSales.com. “We can see that most organisations, and the sales industry at large, have a significant requirement (and opportunity) to get these issues resolved.”
AI can be used to automate a large part of a sales reps workday, including logging activity, identifying and responding to emails, and inputting data into a CRM. In fact, machine learning-based automation tools already exist in many sales platforms. It’s simply a matter of using them.
The benefits of doing so will be instantaneous. When salespeople embrace AI, they free themselves up to focus on their most important tasks, writes Brian Kardon, the Chief Marketing Officer at Fuze. “Simply put, AI can eliminate the monotonous drudgery and busy work so people can focus on what they do best.”
4. Smarter Selling and Lead Scoring
When it comes to closing deals, sales executives try to focus on the best and highest-priority leads first. But judging which leads are best isn’t always easy. Often executives rely too much on information that is incomplete, out of date or plain wrong. Others rely on nothing more than their gut instinct.
AI-powered lead scoring offers a faster and accurate solution. Machine learning algorithms can be programmed to analyse vast amounts of data from a wide range of sources to predict the likelihood of deals closing and rank leads based on that score.
AI can also be used to strengthen the sales process, says Salesforce area vice president Max Roberts: “Real-time customer buying behaviour is at the fingertips of the salesperson, identifying trends to deliver actionable insights in context, such as when to follow up on a lead, recommending complementary products that may be of interest or qualifying pipeline to help teams focus their efforts, especially where large bids are involved.”
5. AI-Powered Prospecting
One of the best uses of AI in sales is to supercharge your prospecting efforts, writes G2M’s Greg McBeth. “Figuring out the best prospects requires aggregating and coordinating data across multiple sources, looking for connections between each, and then qualifying the prospects,” he says.
“This can be done by humans, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Most sales groups rely on guesswork, buoyed by rudimentary data-clustering, to map out their strongest prospects.” But this kind of guesswork won’t cut it going forwards. If you’re not using AI, you’re going to miss out.
This is precisely why we developed EngageIQ. It’s incredibly difficult to work out which prospects you should focus on first. We knew there must be a more logical process than starting at the top of your list and working down. That’s why we started applying AI and machine learning techniques to the vast amounts of data we collect daily from sales calls. The result is smart purchase intent data that can accurately identify which leads are most likely to convert.
By using EngageIQ, you’ll be able to build a more consistent sales pipeline that helps you get ahead of the competition. SDR productivity and performance will increase significantly thanks to less time wasted calling inappropriate contacts. Your sales team will get a morale boost, too, as SDRs begin to smash sales targets and quotas consistently.
Discover how you can implement AI into your sales prospecting process by contacting a member of our team today.