How AI is Changing the Sales Process

In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) is prevalent in our everyday lives. Whether it be selecting a movie on Netflix, shopping on Amazon, or ordering an Uber, AI is powering many of the decisions we make on a daily basis.

For sales professionals, AI is not only impacting your personal life, but it will soon influence your professional work too if it hasn’t already done so. Many of today’s forward-thinking companies have already begun using AI in their sales strategies. In fact, Gartner reported by the year 2020, AI will become a more integral part of the sales process for up to 30% of companies around the world. With the potential to maximize sales leads, reduce costs, increase sales, and optimize return on investment, AI is soon to become a sales rep’s best friend.

Here are three of the top ways AI is impacting today’s sales process:

Increases Time Spent Selling

Today’s sales reps are facing a major problem: they can’t find enough time in their day to actually sell. In fact, sales reps spend just one-third of their time on selling, and they are instead struggling to keep up with their many administrative responsibilities in data entry, quote generation, and other tasks that take them away from customers.

AI has the potential to eliminate the mundane, repetitive work that prevents sales reps from communicating and selling to prospective and current clients. Many of today’s business applications have begun to integrate more AI-fueled features, which simplify the busy work that keeps salespeople occupied. Whether it be aiding budgeting and forecasting, scheduling meetings, or providing reminders, AI helps sales professionals complete the back-end tasks that inhibit their opportunities to connect with customers. As Ryan Moore, director of clients at Peak Sales Recruiting says, AI “augments the capabilities of a team’s best salespeople, allowing them to work smarter, sell better, and utilize their time—a finite resource in high demand—more efficiently.”

With their administrative duties at bay, sales professionals can allocate more time to meeting with potential customers, nurturing relationships, and growing sales accounts. They can benefit their organizations by using their irreplaceable qualities that today’s technology can’t replicate. Freeing up time in a salesperson’s busy schedule to spend more facetime with customers, take phone calls with prospective customers, and use their professional skills to land new deals is the best way to utilize their expertise — while also boosting revenue.

Strengthens Communication With Sales Leads

Effectively acquiring and maintaining leads as they move throughout the sales funnel is a critical role in sales. However, it’s important to note that not all sales leads are created equal. Gauging each individual’s unique level of interest and then translating that initial interest into purchase activity is a multi-step process, filled with opportunity for leads to drop off the map. In fact, only about 5 to 10% of qualified leads successfully convert for today’s sales leaders.

For example, in the B2B world, 73 percent of leads aren’t quite ready to become clients, according to a report by the research firm MarketingSherpa. Referred to as a “lead nurturing” process, businesses can use automation to send resources on a monthly basis that educate the lead and address common questions potential customers might have.

Another use of AI in B2B lead generation that’s gaining traction is predictive analytics. Using more advanced machine learning programs and through the input of historical and transactional customer data, these programs help build propensity models for sales forecasting, customer acquisition, and retention strategies. To put it simply, being able to recognize patterns in sales consumer behavior helps predict future trends, allowing businesses to remain agile. AI-driven software is able to process vast amounts of data more quickly than even a large team of human data scientists, and it gives everyday sales and marketing leaders easy access to valuable insights.

The new AI Forecast from InsightSquared is an example of a monthly or quarterly predictive forecasting service that is based on customized AI algorithms tuned precisely to your business. Unlike manual forecasting alone, which depends on individual intuition and rarely generates a consistently accurate forecast across the sales hierarchy, AI Forecast combines client-tailored analysis and insights with robust machine learning algorithms. This allows their predictive model to generally achieve greater than 90% accuracy within the first three months of training.

Equips Sales Reps With Data-Fueled Insights

In order to remain successful in today’s ever-competitive sales climate, professionals must use data to inform their decision making processes. Although 84% of sales leaders say they rely on data, just 2% claim to have a real grasp of it. With vast amounts of data more accessible than ever, it’s quite surprising that more sales professionals aren’t using it to their benefit. In recent years, data has become a crucial technological tool for many businesses. For sales teams, it can make for stronger sales pitches, informative outbound sales tactics, and can make all the difference in converting a lead to a customer. Referred to as data-driven sales, this approach requires sales teams to collect data and use it to inform every decision they make, from the products they sell to the time of day they reach out to prospects and customers.

Using data should be integrated into all of a team’s daily sales functions. A tool that uses AI to provide real-time sales analytics and reports can make all the difference in a sales strategy that’s driven on fact, rather than a gut feeling. When a sales team is able to view sales goals, forecasts, and outcomes, they’re better equipped with the tools and information needed to succeed. Using data in decision-making processes over time can have insurmountable effects on a sales team’s success. It can maximize lifetime value for each customer by increasing upsell and cross-sell opportunities, reducing customer churn, and boosting retention.

The Future of AI in Sales

Although AI is already here, the technology will continue to evolve and become more accessible over the next few years. This will enable sales teams to tackle complex sales, work more efficiently, and optimize the use of their resources. In the years to come, AI will only continue to play a more impactful role in sales functions. Forrester research anticipates businesses that combine AI with human insights will experience a 66% boost in productivity, a 61% increase in customer satisfaction, and 68% greater operational efficiency.

While AI can’t replicate the human connection at the heart of most successful sales, there is certainly a place for AI in your sales team in the here and now. If you’ve yet to incorporate AI into your sales process, now is the time.