“By 2020 customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.”
Can Artificial Intelligence Outsell a Human?
The answer is yes . . . and no. It depends on an organization’s strategy for leveraging AI as a competitive advantage. As human and machine become more integrated in sales and marketing, companies exploring AI for sales are focused on where, when and how AI can replace the human element. This requires CEOs to work with company leadership to evaluate sales and marketing ecosystems that have become a patchwork of investments in sometimes outmoded, “aggregation-based” software platforms for lead generation, pipeline management and forecasting.
When successfully implemented and leveraged, AI can replace the majority of the heavy lifting sales teams must do to comb the market and track down leads, leaving them free to build relationships and close deals.
AI Can Conduct Market Research to Identify Prospects
“Bots can tirelessly scrape the web across all traditional and digital/social mediums to include scanning 2MM news articles a day.”
Matt Conway, President, Companybook, Inc.
With just a little training on what to look for, AI can hunt down the prospects that fall into the specific intersection point of company type, market sector, job title, business events and trending topics. While it might take a human all day to track down a dozen of these opportunities, the AI can return a much longer list much more quickly, complete with notifications of “sales readiness” and recommendations for engaging ideal, sales ready prospects.
Lead Processing Capabilities make AI the Ideal Sales Assistant
“AI is being applied broadly to back office applications and analytics, but its real opportunity lies in the revenue-producing front end of the business, enhancing sales productivity and boosting marketing effectiveness.”
David Marod, Vice President of Sales, Conversica, Inc.
When used effectively, AI can contribute to lead and appointment increases of more than 50 percent, cost reductions of 40 to 60 percent, and call time reductions of 60 to 70 percent. This is because newly developed AI tools and software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms can process and analyze big unstructured data from hundreds of millions of prospect and customer interactions, pushing millions of triggers a day to sales professionals.
Companies are implementing emerging AI and SaaS platforms to augment and replace traditional research, selling and marketing activities. The mundane, labor intensive alternatives of the traditional sales and marketing automaton are being replaced.
AI Frees Up Sales Teams to Close Deals
This combination of cost savings per closed transaction and the efficiency of data-powered AI in finding new markets with more qualified prospects, creates a recipe for accelerating opportunities. AI empowers salespeople to focus on selling and closing deals instead of chasing down leads.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of sales assistant? AI based software can engage potential customers in natural, two-way human conversations, and tirelessly reach out to every single lead. Faster engagement coupled with machine learning can improve relevant response in lightning speeds.
The net is this: AI does the heavy lifting that highly skilled and experienced sales and marketing experts do not need — or want — to be doing. This allows seasoned sales talent to focus on that 15 percent of a prospect encounter and person-to-person engagement that produces results.
Thinking Differently to Accelerate Revenue
Thinking differently about “sales as usual” has become the critical component of strategic revenue growth. Early AI adopter results confirm the future is now — and it’s accelerating quickly. To thrive, companies must be innovative and creative in the way they leverage resources and talent across their organizations. More and more, that includes exploring AI as a strategic arrow in their quiver, using its lightning-speed capabilities to rev up the marketing and sales teams’ multichannel approaches.
It is still early in the game, but companies that are already integrating and leveraging AI are swiftly realigning sales talent, reevaluating digital engagement strategies and integrating machine activities into innovative sales processes.
The Future of Sales and AI
Think in terms of enhancing versus displacing. AI can’t replace humans when sales are more complex and require escalation of both relationship and strategy development. AI can reveal a larger population of ideal prospects and increase the speed a prospect is moved into relevant sales conversations.
As the lead generation applications improve in providing better marketing and sales qualified leads, more sales professionals will be needed to manage the volume increase, though there should be some initial economies of scale as long as sales professionals are developed to adjust the way they think and manage time. Sales professionals will also have to become highly skilled in utilizing AI dashboards and social media to leverage marketing to improve sales performance results. They will become more “machine intelligent.”
AI may never be able to outsell a human in more complex sales. But the company leveraging AI within a fully aligned sales and marketing ecosystem may indeed prove to be first in line to find, engage and outsell the competition.
Cindy Goldsberry is a managing partner at Austin-based ZFactor Group, LLC. ZFactor consults on strategy, planning and fractional leadership for growth and revenue acceleration.
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