Artificial intelligence is the next big thing for sales. Sales leaders know it, but many aren’t sure what to do with sales AI yet.
A recent MIT survey found that 85% of executives believe that AI will give their companies a competitive advantage, yet only about 20% have incorporated AI into their business.
Although hype is building around the potential of sales AI, business leaders are struggling to find a starting place.
If you’re a sales leader looking to give your team an edge over the competition, these six opportunities will give you the guidance you need to begin using AI to streamline your sales processes.
Wasted time and inefficient processes cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion every year, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Whether it’s performing manual CRM contact updates, logging calls, doing manual dials, or taking notes, the sales process is riddled with time-wasting inefficiencies.
It’s estimated that 50% of business automation opportunities are missed. This means automation has the potential to make your sales team 50% more productive.
When looking for pieces of the sales process to automate, begin by assessing which aspects are wasting the most time for your reps.
For example, sales reps spend about 5.5 hours on CRM updates, which is an area that can easily be automated with a CRM automation tool. And most reps spend about 26% of their day sending emails — an activity that can be easily expedited with an outreach automation tool. Automation saves your sales reps time and can help them get back to selling.
2. Predictive Engagement
A sales rep’s job is all about engaging customers. This involves prospecting, connecting, and following up until the deal is closed. There are multiple avenues where AI can assist in more productive and effective engagement efforts.
According to Harvard Business Review, 17% of B2B sales fall through because the sales rep failed to follow up with the prospect. It takes (at least) five follow-ups to convert a lead, which can be hard to keep track of with multiple leads moving through the funnel.
Intelligent predictive engagement tools remind reps to reach out and recommend what to say during that follow-up call or email.
The key element to any follow up is relevant content.
65% of B2B buyers make a purchase based on the vendor’s content, and 95% of customers went with the vendor that offered relevant content at every stage of the buying process.
And while this impacts the buying decision, many organizations struggle with providing relevant content at the right time. Nationwide, companies waste $2.5 to $3.5 million annually on sales reps searching and creating content, which adds up to $113.4 billion every year!
Intelligent content management platforms can help reps provide their customers with meaningful content at every stage of the journey.
3. Predictive Prospecting
According to The B2B Lead, sales reps waste 50% of their time on unproductive prospecting. Many sales reps would agree this is a problem area, as more than 40% say prospecting is the most challenging part of sales.
If you find that your reps are struggling with prioritizing, qualifying, or gathering leads, look into AI-powered prospecting tools.
Deep-learning tools can prioritize and score leads based on a variety of factors customized to your target audience. Others will suggest new leads based on the trends of past closed deals in your CRM.
4. Sales Process Analytics
Sales managers and operations teams aim to optimize the sales process for peak performance and productivity, which means the sales process is ever-changing. AI tools can guide sales leaders’ decisions when adjusting the sales process.
Of sales professionals already using analytics tools, 76% say they’ve seen improvements in providing a consistent customer experience, and 79% say they’ve used such tools to increase efficiency, according to Salesforce research.
Intelligent analytics tools give deeper insights into the sales process and identify opportunities and areas of inefficiencies. These tools are all about fine-tuning by suggesting incremental changes that show big results over time.
Analytics tools show a full view of the sales process and break down KPIs. They analyze conversion rates, close rates, cycle length, deal size, and provide insights on how to improve these metrics based on past trends.
Other tools focus on optimizing specific aspects of the sales process, from pipeline and opportunity management, to revenue planning and forecasting.
The goal is to adjust the various knobs in just the right way to streamline your sales process. These tools can help managers build a perfect process with analytical data that justifies the changes.
4. Voice/Text Analytics
AI tools with natural-language processors can increase the quality of sale conversations. Voice and text analytics tools monitor a sales rep’s phone calls and emails to determine where they can improve, leading to higher conversion rates and more sales.
They can match keywords, phonetic indexing, speech-to-text transcription, speaker separation, and emotion detection.
Several factors impact the quality of a sales conversation, such as specific words, tones, talking patterns, and length of conversation that are more likely to convert leads at various stages in the process.
The majority of companies (55%) take five full business days to respond to an inbound lead, but customers want a response within the first five minutes. After the first five minutes, the chances of a sales rep actually making contact with them decreases by 10 times.
AI-powered chatbots improve the buying experience by increasing response time and preventing inbound leads from falling through the cracks.
Chatbots can begin the qualifying process by asking low-level questions, which will save time once a sales rep gets involved in the conversation. These low-level questions can weed out those who may not meet the minimum qualifications of the company’s prospect profile.
Pre-qualification can help sales reps immediately personalize the conversation and map out the prospect’s needs. These can be questions related to the prospect’s role, industry, company size, or other important customer data.
And that’s not all. Chatbots that can also assist in scheduling meetings and calls. This helps drastically cut down the amount of back-and-forth that often bogs down reps.
Where to Start
Don’t try to tackle every aspect at once — that will be more overwhelming than helpful!
Begin AI implementation by identifying one or two of your biggest pain points and assessing how AI can help with incremental improvements.
Here are a few examples:
- If your goal is to increase the overall productivity and output of your sales team, find opportunities to automate their tedious tasks and a tool to analyze your sales process.
- If your team has too many leads, use a lead scoring prospecting tool and a chatbot that can increase your response time.
- If your sales reps have trouble converting qualified leads in the middle of the funnel, try a voice/text analytics and predictive engagement tool to help them assess where and how they can improve their engagement.
Artificial intelligence has the the power to improve nearly every aspect of the sales process. Start small and assess. AI will not solve 50%, 30%, or even 20% of your problems right away, but even a 3% improvement can return significant results over time.
Once you solve one area of your sales process, you can move on to implement AI in other areas of inefficiencies, becoming the pioneer of AI within your organization.
Jessica Munday is a content marketing specialist at SalesHero, a San Francisco-based startup that’s building a sales AI assistant to automate CRM and administrative tasks to give sales reps back their selling time.