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Is AI powering the sales industry?

Aanya Khanna

Aanya Khanna

Is AI powering the sales industry?

AI is all around us. It is how netflix recommends us movies, google searches our answers and Uber let’s us jump into a ride. Companies have been using AI in innovative ways and have been taking advantage. In today’s world most of our decisions have been influenced by an AI algorithm including location, association or a classification algorithm.

Now as most of the sales professionals are aware, sales is hard and especially in the B2B industry. With long sales cycles, the need of hand-holding and validation, imagine something to be analyzing customer and prospect data for you, helping you understand the likelihood of prospects that are most likely to close and helping you optimize pricing and forecast results. Interesting isn’t it?

Yes, AI has the power to increase leads by 50%. And honestly AI is changing reality for all sales teams and this is because it has the power to augment and automate much of the sales process. Now the question comes, isn’t sales all about human interaction? Can AI really replace the human seller? Well, maybe and maybe not. We will take a deep dive in how AI is really powering the sales Industry? But before that let’s understand what AI really is?

What is AI?

Remember when we all used to wonder “whether machines can think?, you can think of that as a fundamental basis for AI. At its core, it’s an umbrella term that covers different technologies but the underlying idea is to replicate human intelligence in machines.

With no singular definition, you can think of AI as building machines that are intelligent with the following capabilities:

  • Ability to think and act humanly
  • Ability to think and act rationally

So basically to put in real life, whenever you’re talking to Siri or Alexa, you are using artificial intelligence. When you’re listening to recommendations on spotify or getting into robo-advisors for stock trading you are engaging with an AI.

There are different technologies including Narrow AI (Google Search or personal assistants), Machine Learning (machine learning feeds a computer data and uses statistical techniques to help it "learn" how to get progressively better at a task, without having been specifically programmed for that task) and Artificial General Intelligence (creating a machine with full set of cognitive capabilities).

By analyzing large datasets, crunching numbers and using advanced techniques and superior computational firepower, AI extracts insights from data including predictions, recommendations and decisions.

Now that we have a fair understanding of AI, let’s understand the application of AI in the sales industry

Sentiment Analysis

Wondering if it is possible to ever predict the emotions of your customers or leads after a call? Well, a sentiment analysis tool allows you to do exactly that. By scanning the data, it shows you how many of those calls contain a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment. By taking the analysis even further, such tools display emotions as opposed to polarity. Sentiment analysis is done using a technology that taps into the consumer demand based on natural language processing. This allows sales managers and reps to figure out the chances of a prospect converting into a deal or strategizing the next touchpoint in a way that positively impacts the prospect or customers sentiments.

Conversational AI

Conversational AI can be used to ask the right questions and determine the product the lead is looking for and gather as many data points as possible. Conversational AI grades the leads and score them, allowing the sales reps to prioritise the ones with a higher chance to convert. Furthermore, chatbots have vastly increased customer response rates, giving personalised responses to most issues and allowing agents to focus on more complicated issues.

Prediction, Prioritization and Recommendations

Picture this, you log into your computer on a monday morning worried about how you’re going to be meeting your monthly quota. With a list of 2000 leads on your CRM, confused about whom you should approach first, a software helps you prioritize your leads by evaluating the likelihood of deals to close.

We all have heard about Salesforce and the company’s AI, Einstein. It is a prime example of this. Companies such as Salesforce utilize machine learning which allows them to identify patterns based on large data sets. Using these patterns, they make predictions without human involvement, giving sales professionals superpowers and supercharging the way they work.

Now, there’s more to this. Now imagine as a salesperson you are confused about how to price a deal or which customers to target for an upsell? And AI based on your goals and insights from your data, recommends sales actions including pricing and who to target. So beyond prediction and prioritization, AI systems can provide expert recommendations, giving targeted guidance on what actions to take. That’s a wow factor right there!

Accurate sales forecasting

A sales forecast is critical for business and a company can lose credibility with a missed forecast. AI increases the possibility of an accurate sales forecast by providing a real-time view into the health of every deal in the pipeline. Managers no longer need to spend a chunk of their time to figure out the accuracy of their forecasts.

Improved productivity

When sales managers have visibility into the health of deals in the pipeline, they no longer have to spend hours to understand the status of deals. With accurate information produced via AI, they can instead spend time providing effective coaching to their sales rep, developing their talent, improving their productivity and driving better sales outcomes.

Automation

Automation allows sales reps to focus on selling and building relationships with their prospects by relieving them of tedious admin work. Tracking communications, appointments and other sales activities can now be done by AI, reducing admin requirements and sales rep churn.

With all these use cases and benefits, AI is really driving the sales industry. But the question remains, isn’t sales all about human interaction?

Selling is an inherent human act

The truth is, AI can never replace salespeople. Selling is an inherently human act. You can’t teach an AI to care about your customers, let alone to be interesting or thoughtful. The emotional aspect of selling can never be replaced and the human touch is what will allow sales professionals to keep their jobs in this era of automation and AI.

For that matter, even though prospecting can be automated, at times personalised messages are required to be sent to each lead, which is beyond AI’s bandwidth. Your prospects are people who crave real personal connection that simply can’t be given by robots.

However, ultimately, AI can really become a boon for the sales industry when sales reps know how to use AI to their advantage, these technologies can really complement their work and help them increase their productivity, get accurate forecasts, create personalized conversations with prospects and so much more.

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