How Will AI Impact Sales Industry in the Future? [Expert Roundup]
Welcome to the 8th Expert Interviews feature where we invite a panel of leading industry experts to answer our Reply customers’ most burning questions relating to growing their businesses.
The more time passes, the more we hear about AI serving different fields and industries. First it started with expert systems and relatively simple decision marking, last but not least, deep learning algorithms of complex and all-factors-inclusive predictability.
While we’re still far from a real AI revolution (say “hi” to SKYNET, Mr. Connor), there’s no point in denying how strongly we’ve become affected by neural networks and algorithmical outcomes already.
Try the latest version of Google Translate, and you’ll get a very tolerable piece of text in the end. Search online for your interests, and you’ll be haunted by ads of things really-really closely related to what you were looking for.
Even in sales, predictable revenue is so far beyond what was its starting point looking towards some great changes and superior automation. AI is already changing the world, whether you like it or not. For example, Edge Face Recognition can track customer behavior.
So sit back, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Still, what does AI in sales even mean? Could it be, that we may not need salespeople anymore?
How long until we automate every single process in business development, marketing and sales til the moment when you only need to click the magic “Start selling” button?
And, more importantly, how will AI affect the future of sales industry in general?
To answer those questions we reached out to 6 world experts of AI in sales field and asked them this burning question:
How will Artificial Intelligence impact the sales industry in the future?
Ready? Let’s hear it from the Experts…
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Mark Hunter, CSP, “The Sales Hunter,” is recognized as one of the top 50 most influential sales and marketing leaders in the world. He is author of “High-Profit Prospecting” and “High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.” Mark helps companies identify better prospects, close more sales and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. Follow him on LinkedIn
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact sales process in three significant ways.
First, it will change the role of customer service, as many of the functions done today by people will be handled via AI voice. The sad commentary is that 90% of the interactions will be done at a higher level of customer satisfaction than humans are currently providing.
Second, AI will empower the customer even more than they are empowered today.
When AI becomes fully integrated with websites, we will see customers being able to go much further through the buying process before they have to interact with a human.
For many transactions, there will not be any human interaction.
Third, AI will allow the salesperson to be able to handle more complex sales and be able to do it in a more expedient manner, offering better inside sales predictability.
Just as the laptop and smartphone have increased the productivity of salespeople, AI will continue the trend.
The salesperson will now be able to conduct sales planning sessions using AI rather than having to engage their sales manager.
Before anyone panics and thinks their job is at risk, a better approach is to ask themselves if AI can help them do their job better.
Just as the telephone a century ago changed business, and the personal computer and the internet have done so more recently, we don’t need to think AI is the end all.
Remember, AI already provides great benefits we appreciate, such as spell check, internet search filters and email spam filters, just to name but a few.
In the end, AI will allow the top-performing salesperson to become even more of a top performer.
Conversely, the salesperson who isn’t bringing any value via insights to their customers will soon be out of a job, but the only thing AI will do is accelerate the process.
Fergal Glynn is VP Marketing at 6 River Systems (ex-Docurated). Fergal previously led Veracode’s marketing and inside sales teams. Prior to Veracode Fergal led product management and engineering teams at BlueNote Networks (acquired by Aspect Software), Fidelity Investments, and Oracle. Connect with him on LinkedIn
AI has the potential to drive major improvements in sales productivity, but we are still some way from realizing this potential.
Today’s mainstream AI consists of cute reminders and suggestions for busy salespeople, à la Clippy, derived from combing through dialing lists, email and calendar.
However, the Panacea of AI for Sales is a smarter, personalized and more predictive customer experience. In such a world, sales reps would have true one-on-one interactions and would be confident knowing that what they say and show is proven and tailored for their client.
In order for such a world to become reality the corpus of enterprise content and sales activity data must be part of the provider’s solution and not just the activity that takes place within the confines of a particular platform.
For instance, 90% of sales activities happen outside of CRM: meetings, presentations, emails, attachments, phone calls, follow-ups, more meetings, thousands/day.
And all these live in different places: email, laptops, drives, portals, CMS, learning systems, departments…all silos. All this activity data needs to be fed into the AI solution in order to provide accurate recommendations and guidance to reps.
For AI to deliver on its hype, it needs to hook into the core of business and absorb what’s going on across the entire corpus of enterprise data.
Most sales AI available today just touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging an enterprise’s data (and still does so under sales staff supervision). We need to start understanding the relationships between people, information, time, outcome, actions, etc…
All of this data should then be married with CRM data to get your answers.
This deeply embedded type of AI, bridging structured and unstructured data, consuming ALL sales activities, across a heterogeneous network, is the sort of intelligence that could automatically discover relevant insights (like identifying commonalities between closed lost deals, content association with winning deals etc.), predict future behavior (% likelihood of a deal closing based on factors like historical success rate in particular industry, deal stage etc.), and proactively recommend best next actions (recommended content for each specific sales situation).
Mike Restivo, the Chief Revenue Officer at Bullhorn, drives the company’s global revenue growth. Mike was one of the first 15 team members of Bullhorn Inc. in Boston and relocated to London in 2010 to start up the International team. In his 6 years in London, Mike drove regional expansion into the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, and Australia. Connect with him on LinkedIn
Artificial intelligence will impact the future of sales by improving productivity and reducing work. In doing so, salespeople will harness Big Data to gain incredible insights into account health that will help minimize churn, identify new prospects, and increase their bottom lines. Additionally, artificial intelligence will make salespeople more effective by automating frequently repeated or low-level tasks, allowing them to create automatic alerts for when particular tasks are executed or thresholds are reached.
With this information processed by artificial intelligence sales and marketing teams will eliminate any surprises and understand why customers think the way they think, and why they behave the way they behave.
They’ll also be in much stronger positions to renew customer contracts or cross-sell additional products; they’ll know what their customers will want based on historical context without making any assumptions.
As a result, artificial intelligence will make it possible for salespeople to be more intelligent, more efficient, and more profitable for their companies.
If they can embrace artificial intelligence and integrate it seamlessly into their daily operations, they’ll gain an unprecedented competitive advantage and see dramatic improvements in customer engagement.
Shelly Kramer is a 20+ year marketing veteran and Co-Founder of V3*Broadsuite. She’s an expert at multi-channel marketing, content strategy and execution. She was recently named as one of MediaPost’s Top-100 Social Media Power Influencers, 2015 Edition, and has also been recognized by Forbes on a number of occasions, most recently as one of the Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Experts and Top 50 Social Media Influencers. Follow her on LinkedIn
AI is going to play a large role in the sales process, and that role is going to be as important after a sale as it is before or during a sale.
A post-sale relationship is vital to building strong bonds with customers and not only ensuring repeat business, but loyalty and referrals as well.
Do I remind readers here that Marketing 101 dictates that an existing customer is exponentially more valuable than a new one — so taking great care of those customers post-sale is a fundamental key to business success.
We are immersed in the customer economy, and that's not changing anytime soon — if ever.
Customers want personalized experiences and for brands to know what they want when they want it.
Big data and AI is what allows brands to deliver personalized, customized experiences.
Don't believe me? Research shows that within five years consumers will manage 85 percent of relationships with an enterprise without interacting with a human.
And AI is how that will happen. So what does a business do armed with this information? Learn all you can about how Big Data and AI are and can have an impact on your sales processes, before, during, and after a sale.
And build a plan to integrate that into your strategies moving forward.
Dmitry Dragilev is the founder of JustReachOut.io helping entrepreneurs forget PR firms and pitch press on their own. A contributor for Entrepreneur, TheNextWeb and TechCrunch. I’ve also written for Mashable, Huffington Post, WIRED and many others, and blogger at CriminallyProlific.com. Used PR and content marketing to scale a startup from 0 to 40M+ pageviews and got acquired by Google. Connect with him on LinkedIn
In terms of sales evolution, I think that cold email outreach will become a much more targeted and personalized endeavor.
The basic filling in of fields in our emails with personalized lines of text for email openers and closers will get much more sophisticated.
You can only imagine the depth and properness of targeting your prospects with real deep learning algorithm.
That would save you tons of time on used-to-be manual research, data collection and management.
Some sort of AI in sales and marketing can be used just now.
Tools like CrystalKnows can tell you if the tone you are using in your emails is wrong or the words your are using are off.
And such applications will become more and more prevalent to drive your cold outreach to a completely new level of engament and building relationships with your prospects.
On the other hand, it can introduce new challenges as well. In a world where every single salesman can use those tools, you would have to go extra mile to still stand out. However, that’s just the way it has always been in every competitive industry.
If you’re not doing more than everyone else does — you’re doomed to stay where you are. So, try to think out of the box, test, carry out experiments and search for newest proven tactics whenever you can.
Matt Fields is the CEO and Co-Founder at SalesEngine.ai with a passion for data-driven decisions and helping companies drive sustainable sales growth. Enjoys reading, traveling and riding motorcycles. Connect with him on LinkedIn
Artificial intelligence is already fundamentally changing the nature of the sales industry. I decided to break it down to what I expect to be 3 major phases.
Phase 1: AI for optimizing outcomes & automation
Where we’re at right now is the initial phase of AI in Sales that’s focused on outcomes optimization.
It entails leveraging our access to Big Data across CRMs, industry data, social media, data on professionals in targeted roles etc.
Artificial intelligence for sales also aggregates data across organizations and industries to identify valuable insights. Now, you see a lot of different companies that have figured out ways to use those insights improving sales performance.
Another core piece of AI in Sales is using AI for Automation — building intelligence around sales related tasks and activities.
Imagine your daily routine like building lead lists, responding to leads, scheduling meetings, reporting and tracking. AI can help automate those tasks and free out more time as well as improve your performance.
And if you look at non-complex sales, AI bots are starting to come out for short sales cycles and non-complex sales that don’t require establishing long-term relationship with a prospective client.
It can understand basic responses, drive conversations and deal with common sales objections. This way, a lot of sales can already be automated.
This is what I see as the first wave of AI in sales.
Phase 2: Phase 2: AI Augments the Intelligence
As for the second wave, AI actually augments the intelligence in a meaningful way for salespeople and teams.
This is where AI is paired with sales teams and individuals to work as a virtual extension of the sales person, keeping them focused on selling.
That includes helping generate and qualify leads for them, scheduling meetings, and providing them with a real time feedback based on probabilistic modeling and strategy guidance.
So, even when that salesperson is on a call, they understand different options of moving the conversation or responding to sales objections. At the same time, the probability of success based on historical data goes with their own personal performance.
This also entails predicting different activities as the best kinds of follow ups based on available data and executing strategies that are more likely to lead to the anticipated outcome.
Phase 3: AI Takes Over Sales
Now, AI's long-term impact on sales is really interesting.
I think, eventually, we’ll get to a point where AI can sell for you. A need to have a human being won't be so strong.
With enough data and enough time, it will all become real. The one big hurdle I see is intuition.
Humans have an amazing ability to use their intuition and make decisions based on small amounts of data and that is really hard to beat. An experienced salesperson can often go by their gut and, most of the time, they’ll be right.
The other thing is there is a lot of friction around the idea of interacting with machines instead of humans. Still, this can only be an issue for the generation of people that haven’t grown up interacting with AIs.
The question that bothers me more is: Will humans even be the primary stakeholders in making purchasing decisions in the future?
For a Sci-Fi fan like myself I can’t help think of the book “Neuromancer”, where corporations control all these powerful AIs that work on behalf of the corporate owners to drive better outcomes and compete with other corporate AIs.
So, if you extend that model to Sales, you’ll have an AI trying to sell another corporation’s AI solution or service and that's when it becomes fascinating. You will soon be able to see how AI will change the world around - whether it’s within your sales team or business in general.
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