Trending This Week: Is AI the Answer?

Artificial intelligence and sales analytics are changing the ways we generate leads and pursue prospects. Ready to ride the wave and embrace machine learning?

June 9, 2017

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In the growing movement to integrate data-driven practices into the sales cycle, artificial intelligence may be the next frontier. A number of Silicon Valley startups are banking on it.

One such outfit is People.ai, which recently raised $7 million in its Series A funding push according to TechCrunch. The company’s product is a “predictive playbook” designed for sales leaders, and aims to increase efficiency and productivity by comprehensively analyzing individual sales activities and enabling the dispersal of best practices throughout an organization.

Automating Optimization

Using its own algorithms, the sales analytics software identifies which reps perform best at which stages of the pipeline, and why. How much time is spent at each stage of a deal? Which types of outreach and communications -- email, phone calls, in-person meetings -- yield the best outcomes? What are the defining hallmarks in routines of top performers than can be replicated by others?

In the past, these evaluations have largely been made using gut feel and intuition. Today, we have the technologies to be more precise. AI solutions like this one add transparency and provide useful visualizations of the activities that consistently lead to successful results.

This young venture is hardly the only one placing its chips on AI as the next big thing in sales management.

Big Data Making Big Moves

Using machine learning as a tool for predictive analysis in sales and other benefits isn’t exactly a brand-new concept, but we’re starting to see it take off. Research from McKinsey and Company shows that companies using AI report increases of more than 50 percent in leads and appointments, as well as massive reductions in costs and call times.

Other than People.ai, numerous other companies such as Conversica, Aviso, and VoiceOps are innovatively integrating tech into the sales process. A study from Bank of America Merrill Lynch projects that the market for robotics and AI solutions will explode to $150 billion by 2020. Research from Salesforce found that 57 percent of high-performing sales teams relied on analytics, compared to 16 percent of poor performers.

As a more singular case study, Harley Davidson in New York reportedly increased sales leads by 2,930 percent after incorporating AI tool from Adgorithms. The advantage is evident:

AI systems don’t need to create personas; they find real customers in the wild by determining what actual online behaviors have the highest probability of resulting in conversions, and then finding potential buyers online who exhibit these behaviors. To determine what worked, AI looks only at performance: Did this specific action increase conversions? Did this keyword generate sales? Did this spend increase ROI?

There’s no ignoring it: the future is here. But where does this leave the human salesperson?

Will AI Make Us More Efficient or More Expendable?

When the conversation turns to artificial intelligence and automated solutions, it’s natural to wonder how it will affect sales jobs. But these tools are only meant to take cumbersome tasks off the salesperson’s plate, and create stronger leads to pursue, not to make him or her irrelevant. The human element is not going away anytime soon, no matter how much the field of sales analytics continues to boom.

The key right now, for those companies that are ready to take the dive, is to gain collective buy-in and structure processes in ways that facilitate seamless integration and adoption. CRM Buyer recently laid out three ways that a sales organization should prepare for AI, and this one is big: you need the right data. Disparate sources and inaccurate numbers can derail the effectiveness of systems that use them.

We have all seen enough movies about robots becoming self-aware and overtaking their human masters to instill a certain level of unease. But I think the idea of robots trying to sell things is about as unsettling to customers as it is to salespeople, if not more so.

With the way sales analytics solutions streamline lead generation and enhance the usage of data, the only ones who should be afraid are those unwilling to embrace the wave.

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