One of the biggest knocks against artificial intelligence (AI)—well, beyond it possibly creating our future robot overlords—is that it will replace humans in the workforce and put most of us out of work, including salespeople. While this grim outlook is possible in theory, it is not likely, according to most experts.
So, what is likely? The future of AI as it relates to sales revolves around assisting humans and freeing them up to do more creative and nuanced tasks like relationship building and the listening that enables it. In fact, this process has already begun.
While some smart people work on finally getting us the flying cars we were promised in “The Jetsons” and “Back to the Future,” others are building AI into the most common business processes. And what could be more common to a business than sales? For AI, sales is one of the newest and most transformative frontiers.
We have a saying at my company: “AI will help you find your next customer.” There are a few key reasons why we believe this to be true:
- An AI-powered sales platform takes on the time-consuming drudge work of sales that is currently done by sales assistants, sales development reps, and other lower-level sales roles that include tasks such as sending out emails that are rarely returned, making calls that end up in voicemail black holes, and digging through CRM reports filled with unscored leads.
- AI leaves no lead behind—well, that and never calling in sick or taking off for a coffee run or chatting with colleagues about when “Game of Thrones” is coming back. Every company has prospects who never became customers because, among other reasons, the sales outreach stopped, and the prospect moved on. In fact, a survey my company commissioned in 2017 showed that it takes an average of 8-12 approaches/touches to reach out to a potential prospect, but most salespeople give up after the second or third attempt.
- The end result of AI’s “efforts” is an organized and confirmed list of qualified leads that is served up to a human.
Unlike with some other job roles, sales and AI complement each other very well. While a great salesperson can nail all the key sales tasks—including the drudge work—the most valuable use of their time is relationship building. This goes for both prospects and existing customers. And while it’s almost a cliché at this point to say that technology applications like AI free up a human’s time for higher-level work, it’s 100% true with sales platforms built on AI.
With my sales team I instill the “4 Ps” approach to sales: promptness, personalization, persistence, and performance. An AI-powered platform contributes to all four and does an excellent job leveraging these abstract “Ps” into real-life, qualified leads. They’re even loaded into the CRM without the salesperson having to do anything. There’s not a salesperson alive who doesn’t love teed-up and qualified leads waiting for them each day.
Experienced salespeople will tell you that the relationship-building part of sales is more art than science. And a salesperson can’t really get to the “art” (which, like the drudge work, is also time-consuming) aspect of sales if their time is hijacked by filling in missing CRM info or personalizing emails that have a miniscule chance of generating a response. That’s time better spent preparing for an in-person meeting, pre-planning for a demo, or even just passing by a prospect’s booth at a trade show where there might only be two minutes to make a good impression.
Salespeople had plenty of things to worry about before AI came along. Sometimes customers left because a competitor built a better product or they just liked the salesperson more. Or the customer’s needs changed. Or budgets contracted. These are evergreen issues that every salesperson has to deal with. AI is the opposite. The technology is already at the point where it is helping sales teams work more efficiently and beat their numbers. Even better—AI is only going to improve its effectiveness. I look at AI as a force multiplier that is elevating my sales team each day. It can do the same for yours.
Erroin A. Martin is Vice President of Sales at Conversica. Since joining Conversica in 2014 Erroin has helped sell and lead triple digit growth for three consecutive years in a row since 2015. Erroin has been recognized by LinkedIn as the top Social Seller in 2016 and by Insidesales.com as the Sales Leader of the Year in 2018. When Erroin is not selling, you can find him cooking breakfast for his team, baking bread, brewing beer, or training with his dogs in Search and Rescue.