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Artificial intelligence in sales and why we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves

AI for sales is an exciting topic but companies run a real risk of letting AI control them, not the other way round.

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Artificial intelligence, mostly commonly referred to by its acronym AI, is one of the most exciting technological developments of the last decades. It horrifies us in films like Terminator as much it inspires us and as a society we are absolutely fascinated by AI. When a new AI-based technology emerges it’s therefore a small wonder that it generates considerable hubbub.

As a result we shouldn’t be surprised that AI for sales is generating a considerable degree of buzz in the sales industry. Any new technology that can be harnessed in sales is a welcome development, but Artificial Intelligence is not all that it’s cracked up to be. It certainly has its advantages, but it’s also not right for every sales company and sometimes you’re actually better off without AI.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence is the area of computer science focused on the creation of intelligent machines. Today the most common application of AI in the tech industry, where machines simplify the life of humans or perform some dangerous actions instead of them. However, it’s not the only area, which AI revolutionizes today. With its strong capabilities, AI has plunged into the sales industry as well, raising the effectiveness of the sales process and fueling the buying choices.

How is artificial intelligence used in sales?

There are many reasons why sales AI works so well and here we’ll explore the most interesting use cases:

  • Brings visibility to the pipeline – artificial intelligence helps sales teams gain absolute visibility into pipeline, deals and team activity and using this data nudges sales team with step-by-step guidance to win the deals,
  • Controls and automates the sales process – AI helps sales representatives to sell in the consistent way and avoid missteps in the sales process. In addition, it allows to automate the repeatable routines and apply the unified sales approach across the whole organization
  • Removes guess-work – AI shows whether a deal is at risk and why, as well as provides signals on lag in engagement and communication that stalls a deal. AI in sales offers your sales reps and leaders deal-specific insights while they work and provide step-by-step guidance on each deal.

Explore AI in sales

AI: Does it compute?

First of all, we should familiarize ourselves with what exactly AI is. To put it as simply AI is any form of intelligence demonstrated by machines rather than the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. AI does not specifically refer to sentient or self-aware intelligence, which is the most common depiction in popular culture.

AI and the possibilities it could entail for sales automation and other concepts has actually been around for quite some time. It was first founded as an academic discipline in 1955 however the science failed to attract significant attention over the coming decades and subsequently experienced something of a scientific ‘winter’. Then, with the explosion of internet technology, AI began to experience summer.

As industries began to operate online and utilize emerging technologies AI began a remarkable resurgence. E-commerce websites realised the potential of using artificial intelligence in sales to track customers, tailor make advertisements and carry out highly accurate customer analysis. Companies like Amazon in particular began to use data-driven AI in a number of scenarios.

Now, it appears that AI is either used by sales companies or is being actively considered for implementation. Enthusiasm for any new technology should be welcomed, but AI isn’t right for every business. Just because something is new, cool and exciting, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for your business either.

We’ve only just crossed the threshold

There are three primary forms of AI, all of which have varying degrees of theoretical applicability to AI for sales. The first is narrow intelligence AI, which operates under a limited number of applications based on its purpose and is the most relevant to sales.. The second form is general intelligence, which is where AI can mimic the actions and reactions of a human intelligence. The third form is superintelligence, usually the preserve of science fiction films, this form of AI is purely hypothetical.

As you can therefore imagine in the sales industry we only ever encounter the first form of AI, narrow intelligence. There are some very well known examples out there, for example, Apple’s Siri is a good example of this limited form of AI. Customer service bots, facial recognition technology, voice assistants etc are all further examples.

The practical aspects of AI

To be sure, AI has some pretty interesting uses in the sales industry especially for high-tech companies. As you can imagine sales automation can be significantly improved thanks to AI as the technology allows users to predict and react to customer behaviour. This can save revenue and help them to streamline their sales pipeline.

AI technology can help you analyze discovery calls and help you get past sales gatekeepers during each of them. The technology can also streamline internal working processes, helping you to make your work efficient. Data capture can also be made easier by AI too, allowing you to focus on intelligent sales.

You can also use AI to chase leads and prospects more effectively and plan your potential pitches around them. Artificial intelligence in sales does work and a number of companies out there will attest to this fact. The danger however is that many companies become too reliant on AI and expect it to work as a magic wand rather than as a tool.

Don’t worry Draper you’re not going anywhere

Remember that sales by its very nature is an intuition and empathy based profession and that no technological advance that will take place in the near future will change this. People continue to make decisions to buy products and services based on empathy rather than logic. AI in sales can certainly be used to help you to identify targets but it cannot persuade customers to buy products.

AI can also significantly backfire if your prospects and customers spend too much time talking to bots. People prefer to talk to people and the longer they have to communicate with a bot, the less likely they are to commit to a final sale. This is a good example of how AI should support you but you shouldn’t rely on it.

AI for sales is basically brilliant for running algorithms and helping you to make data driven decisions. It should be considered to be the quantity, and you provide the quality. We are not engaged in analytics in this industry, our profession is sales, one must not forget this fact when considering AI.

Make sure that your AI works for you

So if we can agree that AI has its place in sales, but shouldn’t or can’t dominate it, then how should AI influence your business system? If it is a tool rather than a magic wand then it must be easily dropped and picked up again, and not something that becomes an integral object. Artificial intelligence in sales should work for you, not the other way around.

Use AI by all means for its data capture and algorithm generation abilities. You can use AI for sales in this regard at any business of any size. Use the data you capture during your transactions to help you guide your decisions and make accurate predictions about prospect and customer behaviour.

Imagine that AI is the wheel of the ship, it’s necessary because you alone cannot steer your vessel, but without your ability to steer the wheel you’d go flying off in all directions. AI can only work to an optimum degree if it is controlled. You need data driven information based on AI, not AI itself.

Steering your sales ship in choppy waters

Let’s continue the sailing analogy as the economy is rather choppy at the moment and you never know when a rogue wave might suddenly engulf you. In such circumstances you need all the help you can get, you need a reliable first mate by your side in stormy waters. That’s why you should work with Revenue Grid.

Revenue Grid understands that AI for sales needs to work for you, not the other way around. The company’s three flagship tools are all designed to be completely intuitive to your needs, and they only utilise AI technology to guide your team, rather than forcing it’s hand. Whether it be for guided selling, CRM and inbox integration or customer engagement, Revenue Grid knows how to handle AI as well as a trusty first mate can wrestle a whale.

Artificial intelligence in sales is a fascinating subject and we welcome further uptake of this technology; with a word of warning. Always make sure AI is working for you and make sure you can customize it to suit your needs. That’s how Revenue Grid has used the technology for the benefit of its customers, and with Revenue Grid, you’re in weathered and wise hands.

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Guided selling: what it is, why it matters

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