A few weeks ago I chatted with Trish Bertuzzi on Make It Happen Mondays about how artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the landscape of sales. Trish is the CEO of The Bridge Group and author of The Sales Development Playbook. Here are the key points we discussed.
How Big is AI Today?
Looking at AngelList we can see how big AI has become from an investment perspective. As of Fall 2017, there are 1031 AI startups listed on AngelList with an average valuation of 5.2M. The total valuation of these companies is 5.4B, and this is only expected to rise in 2018.
AI can be broken down into four areas: machine learning, artificial intelligence, bots, and automation. Machine learning is when the machine learns on its own from data that it receives and processes. Artificial intelligence in its truest form will find data on its own and deliver what you’re looking for. The biggest difference between the two is that you are feeding the data to the machine learning programs, for example data from your CRM, whereas true artificial intelligence can find these data sets on their own, and draw real conclusions.
Bots and automation are what you’re probably most familiar with. A bot may ask a question like “When would you like to book a meeting?” When you type or say something like, Wednesday at 7:30, the bot will automatically send you an invite. Bots can also be used in automation, depending on your reply they can decide what your next message will be.
For an example of this, check out my chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
Death of the Average Sales Rep
One reason I start off all my presentations with death of the average sales rep is that if you are doing everything through automation, there is nothing that a robot can’t do. If you are only sending out templated emails and canned responses, you will soon be replaced by automation. Tools like Drift are doing much of the prequalification before the first call. In my opinion, this is way more enjoyable for a prospect than being called less than five minutes after downloading an ebook. They didn’t want to look at your software, they just wanted the ebook.
While AI and automation will replace some jobs, it will also create them. An estimated 13 million jobs will be created due to AI. When it comes to sales, we’re already seeing things like automated qualification and emails that follow the same pattern being generated. If you are writing 100 emails a day would you be interested in a way to pull up something relevant in the news about the person as you type their email in?
Using AI to Manage Pipeline
One of the hardest things any rep can do is turn away business. When I chatted with Doug Landis, formerly the VP of Sales Productivity at Box, and now Growth Partner at Emergence Capital, one thing we talked about was managing the leads generated from their freemium model. While they had lots of leads coming in, they were faced with the challenge of identifying the qualified prospects. The sales team ended up filling the pipeline with tons of leads, but not all of them intended to purchase. One of the biggest drivers of AI in sales is helping to automate the intent to purchase. If you are using a freemium model, or have lots of contacts, AI will be able to help gauge those prospects’ intent to purchase.
The Future of AI in Sales
We’re still in the early days of AI adoption but we’re already seeing companies use AI to help automate follow up and qualification until human intervention is needed. We can also expect to see an increase in the accuracy of automatic lead scoring of leads and recognizing buying indicators that may have been missed.
Tools like Boomerang and Chorus help to give real-time or near real-time feedback. With AI each rep could have their own sales coach to give them feedback after each call, reminding you of questions or talking points you forgot.
Is AI Right for Your Sales Team?
Over the years we’ve seen the rise of trends like sales development teams, social selling, and account-based marketing. Many of these are first adopted by large enterprise businesses that have offerings for companies ranging from 5 to 50,000 employees.
While it is easy to adopt something new it’s just as important to make decisions for your sales team that will last more than six months and have a meaningful impact on your revenue. Artificial intelligence may be a tool that your team can use to help accelerate sales, but like other tools that have come on over the years, they need to be used as part of a bigger picture.
Is your team already incorporating AI into your sales processes? Share your AI tips with us in the comment section.
Make It Happen!