Automation, AI, and the Future of Sales Communications

Automation, AI, and the Future of Sales Communications

The robots are taking over.

You can’t read the news without seeing some article about how automation will soon destroy the workforce or how AI will soon realize it doesn’t need us anymore.

Whether you think advances in automation are fantastic news or the beginning of the end, there’s no denying they have a tremendous effect on businesses today. 

Similarly, AI is becoming increasingly integrated with many industries and will play a major role in sales interactions in the future.

No, we’re not talking about Terminator-style robots that can ‘feel’, well, not yet, anyway.

We’re talking about the ability of the machine to adjust without being told to do so.

AI is kind of the second coming of software. It’s a form of software that makes decisions on its own. That’s able to act even in situations not foreseen by the programmers. AI has a wider latitude of decision-making ability as opposed to traditional software.

– Amir Husain, founder, and CEO of machine-learning company SparkCognition

The advancement of certain technologies coupled with inexpensive high-speed internet, secure cloud storage, mobility, and low-cost devices, has allowed the hypothetical possibilities of the past to become concrete reality.

What do these developments mean for businesses like yours? How can you take full advantage, whether you’re a new business or a well-established company?

The profound effect AI and automation have on sales communications

Automations have been embedded in sales activities for quite some time now, with the main goal of simplifying the customer journey and freeing up time for the sales reps. Although they can be of any nature, most sales automations focus on communication and engagement with prospects and customers, for example, automating cold outreach

AI takes sales automations a step further by using different, previously untapped metrics and connections to help any size business find customers and interact better with them in many different ways.

While AI as a whole is developing at an incredible rate, I’ve found the recent progress with Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms particularly impressive. These technologies allow computers to understand conversations and their context, then use that data to produce meaningful content based on previously gathered information. A game-changer for sales and marketing teams! 

We’re also seeing more business communication being automated. For example, at Reply, we help our clients automate their entire sales outreach across all existing channels, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

We’ve also incorporated AI in our sales activities through the use of good-old bots, and chances are you’ve already had the pleasure of speaking to a few over the years. Our bots were created to simplify the demo-booking process and gather prospects’ contact information from various landing pages. 

As adoption and exposure increase, the psychological resistance to automated conversations is falling. In 5-10 years, maybe less, half of all business communications will be with robots. This transition will be seamless enough that the average user will either not notice or no longer care.

So what is the future of sales engagement? Only time will tell, but we can definitely expect fewer emails, more direct conversations, and more automation.

Looking to automate your sales communications? Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Reply and give it a try.

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4 ways AI is revolutionizing sales engagement

There’s a lot to be learned about a company from data captured on the web from blog posts, social media posts, news stories, and mentions. 

AI algorithms enable you to tap into larger data to get a more complete picture of your prospects and customers, allowing businesses to identify, qualify, and engage with them smarter and more personally than ever before. 

  1. Prospecting — AI platforms now give access and analytic power to data that was previously unrecognized. This data is then analyzed to identify which prospects work best for you, and how you can find them. For example, finding out which companies you share clients with, and approaching your marketing and sales with these references. The numerous AI lead generation tools will then leverage these kinds of data to capture relevant prospects and move them further along the buyer journey / and help convert them into customers.
  2. Engagement — AI then helps you engage with your prospects better and faster by creating unique, human-like outreach text in a matter of seconds. With language prediction and deep learning features, AI generates templates that maximize open and reply rates for sales reps to use rather than manually writing each email, text, LinkedIn message, etc., or relying on existing templates that are available to everyone.
  3. Personalization — With AI, brands can personalize conversations with buyers and create dynamic ad copy, one-to-one emails, and adaptive website content tailored to each unique visitor.
  4. Efficiency — AI-powered apps can schedule business meetings, book demos, automate mass outreach, coordinate between different programs you work with, and answer common customers’ requests automatically.

How businesses can make the most of sales automation

How can businesses prepare for this automated future?

The first step is to make sure you’re where your customers are. This has always been good practice, but it’s essential for the future of sales communication. As your business grows, you need to make sure direct communication is easy for your customers while keeping those conversations organized and optimized.

The second step is to implement automation where you see opportunities within your processes. You’re looking for conversations with your customers that happen regularly with little variation. 

For example, if your sales team often deals with specific repetitive questions (how much will your software cost my team?), perhaps an AI bot on the website can help handle this efficiently (by calculating the team size + needs to determine a realistic price range). 

Rather than starting from scratch every time, setting up integrations with tools like Zapier will allow you to use the same automation for all your communication channels, as well as bring multiple different automations under one roof.  

New businesses can use automation to kickstart their communication

As a new business owner, there may not be a whole lot of communication going on yet. Your main objective at this stage should be to get more conversations started. The more chats you have with prospective or existing customers, the more revenue you’re going to make.

How can you engage better and faster with your audience?

The traditional solution would be to increase the size of your sales team. To be honest, this will also give you the highest conversion rate from leads to customers. However, it’s also challenging, as well as expensive. 

This makes automating your outreach with software like Reply the ideal solution. Sure, it may slightly reduce your conversion rate, but it’s much cheaper than a sales team and will lead to higher overall results in the long run.

Be aware there’s still a limit to what automation can do. It’s not enough to take your inbound leads and just start blasting them with offers and newsletters. You need to engage on a personal level, by sending personalized messages and actually talking with them. Automated systems for handling initial inbound/outbound conversations are great, but you still need to apply the personal touch.

The benefit of sales automation tools comes from not having to deal with time-consuming, repetitive tasks, allowing you to spend more time personalizing your sales engagement. 

Don’t underestimate the difference these automated processes can make for small and solo businesses. I recently spoke with a close friend who was using our automation software. He’s an amazing programmer, but he isn’t a businessman. By automating his outreach and follow-ups, he was able to focus on what he enjoys and does best. Now his biggest problem is handling all the new business these processes have brought in.

Established businesses can manage and optimize their communication

What about more established businesses? Your problem isn’t going to be starting conversations with prospective customers. Instead, you have to handle ongoing conversations with existing customers. 

As your business grows, you’ll have more conversations happening on social media, over the phone, or by SMS. Remember, many of these channels were designed first and foremost for personal use. That makes them convenient for your users but not so much for your business.

Your goal should be controlling and monitoring the conversations on these messaging channels – numerous opportunities can be found there. Once your company reaches a certain size, you’ll likely need to hire someone to stay on top of this. 

With the help of AI, established businesses can easily pick up buying signals to determine which prospects to qualify or not, and which customer journey to place them on. This helps them make smarter decisions by targeting the right prospects and maximizing their revenue

Ideally, you’ll unify these business channels where possible. You don’t want them going through personal accounts, otherwise, when your social media guy goes on holiday you could be in trouble.

At a higher level, AI can also handle some of the more basic but time-consuming tasks. Software like Ahoy.ai can intelligently arrange and book meetings, something that traditionally takes weeks of frustrating emails and missed calls back and forth.

Small businesses can take advantage of automation thanks to the low cost of entry

Despite what you may have heard, automation doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Many automation providers scale the cost of their solution based on usage, which means it can be very cheap for those just starting out. Typically you can implement basic automation software from $17/mo, and for anywhere between $50-$100/mo, you could have a smart, effective automation system in place.

Still on the fence? Count how many hours your team spends answering emails each day.

It’s horrifying, right?

All that time spent going through inboxes, reading emails, and composing replies. If automation can reduce that by just 5%, then it’s already a huge benefit. And as AI continues improving, so will the amount of time saved.

These systems will soon be able to build and optimize themselves over time, learning from your sales team and picking up on contextual rules. In turn, they’ll improve their own understanding and ability to compose readable answers from a growing knowledge base.

If this all sounds a bit far-fetched, it’s important to realize this is already happening. Big companies are producing and implementing their own solutions. But very soon, generic solutions will be available off the shelf, ready for use by companies of all sizes.

Large and enterprise businesses rely on sales automations to stay competitive 

Back in the day, large and enterprise businesses were the first to take advantage of automation due to its initial high cost. Nowadays, they rely on them even more in their own unique ways. It may be easier for them to attract customers, but the standard of operations is much higher. 

These businesses’ landing pages, blogs, social media accounts, and so on get massive traffic – it becomes much harder to identify real lead opportunities to qualify. AI analyzes visitors, makes intelligent suggestions, and finally scores them based on how likely they are to become customers, allowing businesses to focus their resources efficiently. 

These algorithms also work great for existing customers, showing large and enterprise firms who to upsell and cross-sell to, which is usually a huge chunk of their revenue. 

Enterprise sales teams are extremely challenging to manage. Thanks to AI analytics and data-based predictions, sales leaders can track their reps’ progress, see who’s going to hit their set quotas, and jump in when necessary to make sure team productivity remains at max levels. 

Automate your sales engagement across multiple channels while keeping every touchpoint personal with Reply.

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AI and the future of sales 

In the not-so-distant future bots will be commonplace on both sides of the conversation. With sales automations for companies and smart assistants for buyers, we’ll soon experience a huge increase in Bot-to-Bot conversations throughout the entire buying process. 

Think about how you pick a new piece of software. Typically you’ll Google what options are out there, check out their social media presence, perhaps read some reviews and then try out trial versions of the top choices. It’s a time-consuming and imperfect process where you may easily miss out on better solutions. Why not let AI make the entire journey for you?

And it’s not just customers buying from businesses, AI is the future of B2B sales as well. Just imagine an AI making buying decisions for your company based on your budget and the information it’s able to source. It would then contact the seller’s representative, whether that’s a human or another bot, to arrange the deal.

The future of AI in B2B sales looks highly promising, with Gartner estimating 75% of B2B firms utilizing AI-based selling by 2025

Nobody knows for sure what the sales jobs of the future will look like, but one thing is almost certain – when it comes to AI in sales, it acts as a powerful guide for salespeople, not a replacement. At the end of the day, nothing can substitute the personal relationship between a sales rep and a customer, even in the days of super-speed automation.

Instead, artificial intelligence helps direct sales reps to the right place with minimal effort and reduced cost, and liberates them from repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on the most important part of their job – closing deals. 

AI in sales enablement has already begun slowly redefining the way sales reps engage with customers and sell by helping recognize business patterns, suggest next steps, learn from past complications, and so on. And it will only keep getting better.

Conclusion

We’re rapidly approaching the time when machines can start teaching themselves. In a year or two, AI will be able to solve our problems and carry out our mundane tasks better than we ever could.

But rather than putting all humans out of work as many fear, I firmly believe it’ll allow us to reach our full potential, taking away the boring grind of daily tasks and letting us focus on the more creative solutions and possibilities.

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