In the past few years, AI has made headlines for driving our cars, detecting cancer, mastering Go, and much, much more.
Our current confinement has probably brought you closer to AI even if you’re not aware of it. Whether you’re asking Siri for the weather, enjoying a spam-free inbox, or finding the next show to binge on Netflix. In fact, there’s almost nothing AI can’t touch – some toothbrushes even use AI to help us brush more effectively (begging the question, does a toothbrush really need AI?)
Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of AI, as it’s found its way into our daily lives in ways big and small. Last year, that explosion across sectors and products was very much still the story. We were finding new applications for the technology left, right and centre.
But looking forward through 2020, something else is happening. AI isn’t just expanding. It’s becoming normal. It’s now an expectation that certain products and services will come with some level of AI built-in, and sales technology is no different.
AI is also getting smarter. It’s now basically, an umbrella term that covers a lot of different technologies like automation, machine learning, computer vision, deep learning, and natural language processing. Not only can we increasingly leverage these capabilities in the products and services we create and use, but the capabilities themselves are getting better as we refine our algorithms and feed them more data.
So when it comes to sales AI, we see the same thing happening. It’s less about the number of AI-enabled tools that are out there (although that’s still growing) and more about how AI will get really good at what it does… while becoming just another everyday part of our work.
The rise of sales AI
Wondering just how prevalent AI is? In sales and marketing alone, AI is expected to create up to $2.6 trillion of value worldwide, says an estimate from McKinsey. Add to that the prediction that 80% of technology will operate on an AI-powered foundation, according to Gartner.
This year, about 30% of all B2B companies are expected to use AI in one or more of their primary sales processes, Gartner adds – a number that’s expected to grow as we get further into the year. It’s not just early adopters anymore. It’s here, and it’s here to stay.
As it becomes an everyday part of the sales process, AI is shifting what it means to be a sales rep and a sales leader. It means we’ll need technical skills to work alongside the platforms and systems that do more and more for us.
It also gives us more time to be hands-on and human, meaning strong emotional skills will be in high demand. After all, it’s not about automation taking over sales jobs. It’s about helping us all do our jobs better.
There are drawbacks, too. AI needs a lot of data to function at its best… and data can be problematic. If it’s incomplete or biased, the results you get will reflect that. We need to make sure we feed it good data. We need to make sure we use that data responsibly, and also make sure we take good care of our data. As we load more into these platforms and systems, we must do our due diligence to make sure that data is safe and secure.
How sales will use AI
Where will sales AI make the most impact in 2020? We see it making a big difference in five main categories:
Doing the administration work
We know reps spend more time on administrative tasks than they do selling. Apps and platforms that relieve that administrative pressure – from setting up calendars to automatically updating your CRM – are already helping reps save time and focus on the tasks that matter most to your organization.
What customers are the best fit for your product or service? AI can help your reps suss out which of their prospects are most likely to convert – and which existing customers are the best candidates for upselling. It can even predict the best way to approach those customers based on past interactions.
AI is particularly strong at analyzing data and picking up on patterns. So it’s no surprise it’s also becoming strong at making predictions and recommendations based on those patterns. Forecasting, price optimization, and progress tracking on organizational goals are particularly strong examples of that in action. If AI isn’t already a part of your decision-making process, it’s time to start thinking about how it can help.
Communicating with prospects and customers
AI’s getting pretty good at reading, listening and classifying content. It can look at a conversation and pick up on things like topic, tone, and sentiment. It’s getting to the point where it can even write simple emails. And it can do all of this quickly, at scale. Email automation and chatbots are great examples of this, and are gaining popularity for their ability to qualify leads early and take immediate action on next steps.
Training and onboarding
Your new reps have a lot to learn. The good news? AI can help shorten onboarding cycles and get reps up to speed and on the phones faster. Personalized learning platforms can pinpoint what a rep knows and what they need to know next. AI can guide reps through steps in the sales process. It can even help surface the knowledge they need, when they need it most. (Hey, that’s why Kiite’s Playbooks come enriched with AI!)
Believe it or not, this isn’t the distant future – or even the near future. All of these capabilities exist right now… and you don’t need AI to tell you that it’s already changing the way sales teams are selling. It’s only going to get better from here.