How Sales Can Use AI to Align with Marketing and Drive Growth

August 16, 2018

AI

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Jeff Davis, Founder of jd2 Consulting Group.

Artificial Intelligence is coming. Research from Adobe shows us that even though 15% of enterprises use AI today, 31% of enterprises are expected to be adding AI over the next 12 months. As AI becomes more prevalent, I believe it’s the perfect window of opportunity for both Sales and Marketing teams to explore together how AI can take their customer interactions to the next level. 

In particular, I encourage sales leaders to also think about those areas where AI can be impactful for both Sales and Marketing simultaneously in achieving our ultimate goal of driving revenue growth. One of the major issues with misaligned organizations is the development or use of tech solutions for cross-business processes in a siloed environment. And what could be more cross-business than the sales process? When you look at the buyer's journey, prospects interact with many different departments (i.e. sales, marketing, service, etc.) that many times, because these different departments operate in silos, they have each created their own tech solutions to deliver their assigned tasks to the overall process  — getting new customers.

What if leaders were able to take the time to be thoughtful about how to leverage an emerging technology together versus trying to "make it work" once conflicts where identified post-selection? This is why I would like to share with sales leaders how they can bridge the gap with their marketing colleagues to think about adopting AI together. 

Lots of Data for Sales to Use, Not Leveraging It Properly

One place where sales leaders should definitely start is a recent presentation given by Victor Antonio at InsidesSales.com’s digital event called the AI Growth Summit. Antonio’s presentation, "Sales Ex Machina: How AI is Changing the World of Selling," helps set the stage for developing an understanding of the current state of selling today, digital transformation's impact on sales strategy, and how AI is poised to change the way salespeople sell in the modern business world.

Antonio also talks about the AI Wedge, lead prioritization, finding blue puddles instead of blue oceans and much more. It's an extremely informative session that helps sales leaders increase their knowledge about the state of sales and begin to develop a vision for how AI will play a role in the future. I also think the session brings up some good points around how we can use AI to better leverage the cross-company data we have from several different sources (service, marketing, finance, etc.) to provide insights to salespeople and help them increase their productivity with more personalized interactions.

Salespeople are Extremely Inefficient, Help Them!

Another great session from the InsideSales.com event was titled "An Introduction to Sales AI Automation" and given by the Founder/CEO of SalesHero, Stefan Groschupf. One of the key themes he shared is that sales reps are extremely inefficient. This inefficiency has a direct impact on them being able to hit quota. TOPO shows us that 83.4% of sales professionals fail to consistently hit quota in large part due to time management challenges. Some of the data Stefan shares about salespeople that I think is compelling for sales leaders to know are:

  • 58% of deals stalled due to lack of value communicated to prospect
  • 90% of marketing content goes unused
  • 8.8 hours/week spent looking for information
  • 20 hours/week writing emails

Groschupf makes the point that although many salespeople are being hired for having skills such as an outgoing personality and an ability to make a meaningful connection with potential customers, we are continually asking them to do things outside of the scope of why we hired them — to sell. Things like writing compelling emails (that no one really reads anymore), administrative tasks (that take them away from selling) and continually updating the CRM (which they don't really receive value from). He also tells us that IDC predicts that AI-powered CRM activities will boost business revenue by $1.1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. This is a major win for the conflict many sales and marketing teams have over the proper use and demonstrated value of the CRM. I also believe that sales leaders can use these statistics to help them have a deeper conversation with their marketing colleagues to advocate for the specific support they need from the marketing team.

Make ABM (Account-Based Marketing) More Social

Jamie Shanks, CEO at Sales for Life, delivers a session at InsideSales.com’s event called "Redefining the Account Selection Process Using Digital "Social Proximity" Intelligence". His focus is on how to change your target account selection process by using digital "social proximity" intelligence. Shanks argues that sales professionals today cannot only rely on just focusing on large "whale" accounts because so is everyone else. Focusing only on these types of accounts lengthens the sales cycle and reduces the probability of success.

What he suggests is that we take current customers or past company successes and reverse engineer them to find other potential accounts to target based on our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and their social proximity to those accounts we have already achieved success with. This way of thinking has an impact on how a marketing team might work with Sales to execute an ABM (Account-Based Marketing) strategy. Thus, no longer are we just focusing our ABM efforts on the biggest opportunities. Sales and Marketing can now come together and be even more strategic and look at the best places to focus our efforts based on our connectivity to prospects in the social fabric of business. This way we deliver targeted marketing and selling experiences to those that have the highest probability of becoming a customer, based on relationships, not just company profile information.

Create Room for Strategic Thinking and Partnership with Marketing

I also gave a session at the InsideSales.com event. My session was titled "How AI Will Empower Sales and Marketing Alignment." I focused on the importance of us understanding how much of an impact misalignment has on the business. With misalignment between sales and marketing processes and technologies costing companies 10% or more of revenue per year, according to IDC, leaders can no longer ignore the alignment issue. AI, if approached together with an understanding of what types of solutions the business needs, can be a significant game-changer for many B2B businesses. One of the key things I think that AI will help us improve is overall CX (Customer Experience). This matters because estimates show that by the year 2020 CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Beyond an improved CX and other really cool things like predictive lead scoring, AI has the power to remove mundane, repetitive tasks that add marginal or no value to the work we do. This frees up time for Sales and Marketing to actually come together and have a conversation about how best to work together. Alignment is about understanding the DATA in the revenue pipeline, establishing a strong PROCESS to meet the expected CX from customers, and embedding a formal approach to COMMUNICATION between the two teams.

In the end, AI will empower Sales and Marketing to do those things and more when both recognize how to leverage its power — together. 

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