Artificial intelligence (#AI) and big data are key areas in today’s technology that are changing how companies understand buying behaviors and interact with their customers. The big #CRM vendors (Salesforce.com, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle) are all developing AI applications to assist in the selling and in improved Customer Experience. By utilizing the science and engineering behind AI we start to enhance the way sellers interact with customers and prospects thus enhancing the Art of Selling.
With Big Data growing at an exponential rate and combining that data with AI, sellers will have more meaningful and actionable information about their customers, buying patterns and market conditions. Leveraging AI in the selling process aims at giving more value to customer interactions by helping sales reps focus on why a customer buys, why they buy now and what benefits the customer is looking for. The technology is in its early stage of acceptance, and with time, it is believed that the benefits will enhance the Art of Selling. There are many reasons why technology vendors are all racing to embed AI into Customer Experience and Sales Automation technologies. Let’s look at a few key areas.
· Automate Tasks
Sales reps hate administrative tasks. Every CRM vendor claims to provide automation to the mundane daily but “required” tasks for reps. Creating forecasts, data input and data retrieval through reporting make most reps heads spin. With the enhancements in AI, CRM vendors like Salesforce.com have started to change how reps interact with the CRM system. From simple tasks like automatically logging emails to the customer record to providing key insights on your customers from external news feeds and data keeping up can be daunting. More time will also be saved with the new AI based virtual assistants. Check out #Voicea. They developed an AI assistant that will take notes during a meeting and turn those notes into actions.
· Price optimization
Using neural networks, price optimization models can be built to make pricing recommendations that match up with predictability to close. Marketing promotions become more precise and data driven. Controlling pricing and discounts is always a struggle for sales managers and product teams. While it is important to make these discounts available and attract the right customers, calculating the correct price will take up precious selling time or even put a deal at risk. Companies like #Vendavo have designed AI and Machine Learning solutions to help mine the data and provide recommended price strategies. Instead of a sales rep going to several applications to figure out a complex pricing model or resorting to extreme discounting these AI based solutions can provide them with key customer attributes that react to the market conditions, competitive pricing and cost management. Not only will sales reps be happy, but it will please the accountants and avoid revenue recognition problems for discounted deals.
· Upselling and cross-selling
For many companies, one of the most effective ways to enhance their revenue growth is to sell new products to existing clients. Leveraging AI, you can better understand your audience’s sentiment, predict buying behavior and deliver precise campaigns to your existing customer base. By giving your sales teams a predictive analysis, they can focus their efforts on the opportunities most likely to close. Every sales reps dream is for someone to tell them who is going to buy and who will buy now so they know where to spend their time. This was not possible until AI solutions came along. It doesn’t guarantee increase in cross selling revenues but makes huge steps toward the right focus.
A good sales manager must have the ability to see beyond the present and determine the likely market trends based on recent happenings around the market. They often lean on a sales rep’s intuition combined with data imputed by the same rep to predict their forecast. By integrating an AI algorithm into CRM, sales managers will obtain better insights into market trends, buying behaviors, historical performance and seasonality to create their forecast. Thus, forecasting with more data precision than intuition alone. Oracle and Salesfore.com have done this for quite some time but new companies like Clari are entering the space with 100% focus on AI based forecasts. Sales will have what they need to make better deal predictions and a more accurate forecast.
· Lead scoring
Lead scoring continues to be where sales and marketing disagree the most. Sales will say marketing isn’t giving them the right leads and marketing will claim huge numbers of leads provided. Making sure a lead is scored accurately and consistently in a reasonable amount of time is a challenge most CRM vendors still struggle with. That is before AI. Predictive Analytics leverages AI and Machine Learning to review huge quantities of historical data as well as key intelligence attributes to calculate an accurate score on who is most likely to buy. Using algorithms (one of my favorite words these days) databases with customer information can be mined to recognize trends and patterns of customers that buy or don’t buy. These algorithms are not static. They will continue to analyze and evolve based on new data, new closed deals and much more so that you are always given the right data and score. A well-qualified lead always has a better chance to close. Sales can spend an enormous amount of time trying to qualify the right lead, match it with the right solution and accurate timeframe to buy. AI based lead scoring systems will look at buying behaviors, completeness of customer data taking out all the guesswork and time spent trying to scoring and qualifying leads.
The integration of AI into the sales force will improve how sellers sell, assist in predicting our revenue and overall provide a better customer experience. The number one compliment I would hear from customers is that my sellers understood their business and helped to solve their problems. This was because my sellers were using technology to their benefit and truly going after the right opportunities at the right time. Although the technology is in its early stage of implementation, the numerous benefits of AI in sales force is indeed a force to be reckoned with. Some may fear that AI will take over the basic sales job when in fact it will help automate basic sales tasks making reps more effective, smarter about their customer and give them back key time to focus on customer interactions. Better customer interactions makes for a better customer experience.