There’s no doubt about it, the market is buzzing about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Consider the following predictions:

– According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the market is projected to grow to $153 billion by 2020, comprising $83 billion for robotics and $70 billion for AI-based analytics.
– The rise of AI is predicted to lead to cost reduction and new forms of growth that could amount to $14-$33 trillion annually.
– Research firm Markets and Markets estimates that the AI market will grow from $420 million in 2014 to $5.05 billion by 2020, thanks to the rising adoption of machine learning and natural language processing technologies in the media, advertising, retail, finance, and healthcare industries.

With companies and professionals everywhere hedging their bets on the success of this technological trend, sales is no different. As the solutions and technologies to make AI a reality become increasingly available, sales is transforming right before our eyes in three pivotal ways.

Greater CRM Adoption & Data Awareness

The number one ingredient needed for AI to be effective is data. And we’re not just talking about any old data – we mean high-volume, high-quality data. On that note, the number one place where sales data should be collected and stored is in the CRM.

As sales teams are beginning to contemplate the usage of AI to improve their performance, they are being forced to come to terms with the dirty secret of the CRM industry: 74% of sales teams using CRM have poor adoption. What’s more, 88% of CRM users admit to entering incomplete customer information, and 63% have duplicates in their CRM. Garbage in, garbage out.

In order to even contemplate reaping the benefits of AI, companies need to first ensure that all of sales is consistently using their CRM, which you can learn all about here in this free resource. Then, they must optimize their processes and protocols to make sure as much data is captured as accurately and completely as possible. Here are a few ways that this is being done:

– Choose a CRM with an intuitive, consumer-grade user interface that reps actually want to use. Make sure this solution functions properly across all devices.
– Wherever possible, automate data collection. This has two benefits: it will ensure that this information is always captured, and it will also help you avoid data entry errors.
– Integrate your sales platform with other key systems across your business to capture as much relevant prospect and customer information as possible.
– Put a standardized sales process in place that requires reps to follow a certain set of steps and capture particular pieces of information before moving a deal from one pipeline stage to another.
– Keep your data as standardized as possible. Drop-downs and systematic nomenclature are great ways to make sure that you get the data you need in a correct and consistent format.

Predictive Analytics

At this point, “predictive analytics” is nearly synonymous with “artificial intelligence.” That’s because this is the most common type of AI in use by companies today – and it works. Businesses that have the right data and strategies in place to leverage predictive analytics see a difference, with high-performance sales organizations claim to be 4x more likely to use predictive analytics than underperformers.

As the name implies, predictive analytics anticipate what will happen in the future. It takes many forms, one example of which is email sentiment. Using natural language processing, predictive sales platforms can detect whether or not an email that you’ve received contains any negative sentiment, signaling that the deal may be in jeopardy. Examples of words or phrases that may trigger negative sentiment alerts include “unhappy,” “need to speak right away,” “disappointed,” etc.

Another key sales function that is benefiting from the application of AI is forecasting. While sales forecasting used to be a dreadful and time-consuming process that typically ended in more questions than answers, AI-enabled forecasting tools can estimate the win likelihoods and close dates of your deals based on your previous wins and performance patterns. Using this and other key information, they can then calculate the probability of winning deals to predict expected revenue and help you create more accurate sales forecasts.

Clearly, these types of tools and capabilities help sales teams achieve an unprecedented level of productivity and growth. Predictive analytics is effectively changing sales as we know it by generating intense competition that requires companies to become faster and smarter in a way that only data can facilitate.

Prescriptive Insights

While predictive analytics have no doubt changed the face of sales, what many companies are just discovering is that the ability of AI to transform sales hasn’t stopped there. The next generation of artificial intelligence in sales is upon us in the form of prescriptive insights.

Prescriptive sales platforms have the power to dynamically codify and analyze millions of data points at once to isolate the key dimensions impacting your sales performance and make actionable recommendations. In other words, prescriptive insights don’t tell you what’s happening or what might happen; they tell you why something is happening and the specific levers you can pull to increase sales growth.

For example, Chicago-based publisher Guerrero Howe was on a mission to understand the value of its referrals to determine how its sales reps could most effectively spend their time. With the power of prescriptive insights, they were able to codify and isolate the key factors impacting their sales performance.

It turned out that they had prospects who were providing plenty of referrals — but not much in the way of revenue. While these referrals generated significant revenue per deal, they were not being closed. After further analysis, Guerrero Howe discovered that the reason for this was rep-related, with some reps closing these specific deals at a much higher rate than others. At the end of the day, Guerrero Howe was able to walk away with prescriptive insights around the profiles of its best referrals, as well as key areas for sales coaching.

We’re Living in the Future of Sales

Gone are the days when artificial intelligence was something you could only dream about or watch on the Jetsons. We are living in the future, and AI has already begun to impact sales in huge and transformational ways. For more on the growing role of AI in sales and how you can future-proof your business, download the free eBook, Beyond Predictive Analytics: Why the Future of AI in Sales Is Prescriptive.