Sales has come a long way from going door-to-door with a stack of encyclopedias or schmoozing with executives over a game of golf. Today, every business has the capability to reach out to millions of potential customers on a global scale. But the world of selling hasn’t stopped moving. In fact, it’s speeding up. And just like the door-to-door salesperson of yesteryear, those who aren’t looking to the future are in danger of being left behind with the rest of the dinosaurs. Artificial Intelligence is changing the scene with a number of different applications that we’re excited about over at Reply, and they’re all closer to the mainstream than you may think.
Rise of the Chatbots
Chatbots have been around for years, but we’re now seeing a leap forward in their capabilities and accessibility. Rather than simple toys and curiosities, they’re quickly becoming mainstream sales tools. We’re also seeing increasing integration with mainstream messaging apps like Slack, KIK and Facebook Messenger. Businesses, ranging from shopping service Spring to accounts software provider Sage: “Sage’s vision is to empower entrepreneurs and business owners to spend less time on administration and more time on what they love doing,” said Kriti Sharma, Vice President of Bots and AI at Sage. “Artificial intelligence is the answer for solutions to the everyday pain points people are facing now.”
As the technology improves and usage becomes more widespread, customers will become used to chatting with a bot for product queries, troubleshooting and completing purchases, all without a seller’s direct involvement. With the cost of entry for companies wishing to create their own chat dropping, now is the time to work out how your business can take advantage of this new technology.
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence, where programs try and figure out for themselves the best way of achieving a given result (such as increased sales). The age of big data has resulted in a requirement for machine learning to handle the vast swathes of available data. You’ve probably already come into contact with it at some point today, whether it’s your Netflix recommendations or targeted ads in your browser.
There are many different algorithms that can be implemented depending on your requirements, broadly classified as Supervised, Unsupervised, and Reinforcement Learning. A comprehensive guide on all the potential algorithms is beyond the scope of this post, but the important thing is to recognise its importance and how you can benefit. Data by itself is largely useless; it’s the interpretation of that data is useful. If you have access to large datasets for your business, machine learning can give you a distinct advantage in understanding that data.
The variety of different algorithms provides a range of options for solving problems, from initially identifying potential customers, optimising sales messages, through to powerful recommendation engines, making it indispensable to businesses.
Death of a Salesman?
What does this mean for those working in sales today? Have we reached a point where our work is going to be done by soulless machines? In a recent series of interviews on the Reply blog, the experts seem to think otherwise. Although some felt we’d reach a point where the need for a human in the sales process wasn’t necessary, most agreed that AI is a powerful tool, that will ultimately allow the top performing salesperson to become even more of a top performer.
Artificial intelligence has already moved firmly out of science fiction and is offering a competitive advantage to the companies that embrace it. As the algorithms improve and the technology becomes more accessible, it’ll become an increasingly integral part for all businesses.
By learning all you can about how artificial intelligence, from back-end machine learning through to front-facing chatbots, you can improve all the steps in your sales process from start to finish. Those of you who build a plan to integrate that into your business will be ready for whatever the future holds for sales.
P.S. Join us for the webinar ‘How to Make 3x More Opportunities with Invisible and Reply’ on May 4th, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET to receive step-by-step actionable sales tactics backed with real data designed to create a perfect pipeline, increasing qualified sales opportunities and scaling customer acquisitions & sales.
Today’s post is by guest author, Oleg Campbell, Founder & CEO of Reply, a sales acceleration platform that automates one-to-many communications – dramatically scaling your outreach capability while keeping it 100% personal.