Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is taking the sales industry by storm. For instance, a Harvard Business Review report states that AI can create up to $2.6 trillion of value in marketing and sales; and the number of companies using AI grew 270% between 2015-2018, according to a Gartner CIO Survey.
What’s all the fuss about? While AI is not replacing salespeople, it is augmenting the overall sales process in a number of powerful ways. In the information below, we’ll discuss what artificial intelligence in sales is, how it can impact your sales process, and some key benefits it can offer.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Sales
Artificial intelligence isn’t just a buzzword lifted from science-fiction books (or an incredibly long movie directed by Steven Spielberg). It is an umbrella term for several technologies that enable machines to perform cognitive tasks as well as (or better than) humans. For example, every time you ask Siri or Alexa to perform a task, you’re experiencing AI at work. Your device recognizes the sound of your voice, “understands” your words, and then performs the requested activity.
Machine learning goes hand in glove with AI. It’s a more specific term. It is a type of artificial intelligence in which a machine is programmed to identify patterns in a large data set and then adapt its actions to match those patterns. In effect, the machine is “learning.”
An example of this would be when a streaming provider like Netflix provides you with movie recommendations on your home screen. Netflix’s algorithm is taking your viewing history into account. It correlates it to viewing patterns from similar users and then uses that information to come up with a list of movies it “thinks” you’ll like.
Connecting it with Sales
At this point you may be thinking: “Okay, that’s great, but how does this fit in with sales?”
In terms of the sales industry, AI and machine learning are often combined with marketing automation to make the overall sales process faster and more efficient. A lot of the AI applications for sales revolve around identifying patterns and trends in customer data. They then leverage those insights into highly targeted marketing tactics.
For instance, let’s say you want to compile a list of prospects within a certain community for an upcoming campaign. You could try to compile the list manually – but that would be very time-consuming and labor-intensive. Plus, how would you know which prospects to prioritize?
This is where AI and machine learning comes into the picture. Using an AI-powered marketing automation tool, you could program your machine to generate a list of prospects for you. Moreover, you could also “teach” your machine to prioritize certain prospects based on characteristics that align with your ideal customer persona. This includes age, gender, income level, interests, purchase behavior, etc. It’s easy to see how helpful such an AI-driven platform could be in terms of marketing ROI.
How Can AI Impact Your Sales Process?
AI and machine learning can provide a major boost to your sales process in so many different ways. We just considered one use case in the previous section (compiling and prioritizing a contact list). Here are a few other ways that AI can make a big difference in your sales process:
1. Lead Scoring
Lead scoring AI can measure the potential value of prospects according to various buying signals. For instance, data from past and current customers may indicate that subscribers to your email newsletter are 40% more likely to become paying customers than non-subscribers. Then again, visitors who spend a long time on one of your product pages may have a higher intent to purchase than visitors who briefly visit your home page and then bounce to another site.
The point is, a machine with artificial intelligence can identify which leads your reps should contact first. Thus, helping them to focus their efforts on the people most likely to buy from your brand. And when you bring machine learning into the picture, your lead scoring model will constantly improve with each passing day.
2. Engagement Insights
Your AI system can also act as a “content recommendation expert”. This is to guide your sales reps in their interactions with leads. For example, machine learning can help your sales automation platform to identify shared demographic and behavioral characteristics between prospects. Once the machine realizes that two leads are similar, it can recommend content that the first lead accessed and consumed for the second one.
3. Productivity Enhancement
AI can also take some of the mundane tasks of the sales industry away from your reps. It leaves them with more time and energy to focus on mission-critical tasks. These could include setting alerts and reminders for upcoming appointments, filling in slots on the calendar as mandated by management, and even actively recommending recurring events or to-do tasks based on already established patterns.
What are the Benefits of AI and Machine Learning?
There are several advantages that AI and machine learning can offer to your sales team, in virtually all stages of the sales process. Here are just a few key benefits to consider:
- Enhanced personalization. Modern customers expect (and even demand) a personalized experience. With AI-powered product and content recommendations, sales reps will be in a much better position to deliver on this expectation.
- More accurate data. Sales AI often involves “data cleaning”. In other words, verifying that customer data is up-to-date and accurate, so that reps don’t waste time on bad contact information.
- Better performance management. Artificial intelligence isn’t just for the customers. Sales managers can leverage AI to identify key behavioral patterns among their top performers. They can then use that information in their one-on-one coaching sessions.
- A more seamless customer experience. An organized, AI-powered sales process will help your reps provide a consistent service experience to prospects across all stages of the sales funnel.
In summary, AI and machine learning are important pieces of the sales and marketing puzzle. And when used properly, they can take your sales game to the next level.