Sales is supposed to be a human-to-human activity. But, over the last decade, sales relationships have become less human, especially with the proliferation of CRMs. Fortunately, sales is on the brink of a tipping point. Artificial intelligence promises to transform the ways in which sales professionals interact with customers and forge high-quality relationships that drive sales. ... read more
4 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Sales
Sales is supposed to be a human-to-human activity. But, over the last decade, sales relationships have become less human, especially with the proliferation of CRMs. Fortunately, sales is on the brink of a tipping point. Artificial intelligence promises to transform the ways in which sales professionals interact with customers and forge high-quality relationships that drive sales.
Transforming customers from numbers to people
CRMs are entrenched in sales professionals’ day-to-day work. Despite their ubiquity, there’s mounting evidence that CRM systems often fall short of expectations. According to a report by IBM, CRM adoption rates are as low as 24%.
One of the main drivers behind CRMs’ low adoption levels relates to how CRMs tend to treat customers—namely, as transactions to be pushed through the sales funnel. What’s more, CRMs treat customers as static entities and “assign” them companies—prospect A, for example, “belongs” to Company X. The traditional CRM hierarchy is such that contacts belong to companies (accounts). While this model might have made sense in the past, it no longer does, especially as job-hopping has become more common.
Powered by AI, CRMs can account for the dynamism of today’s customers. AI tools can monitor job changes, acquisitions, partnerships, and more to determine which companies prospects are affiliated with in real-time. This knowledge can ensure that every conversation is relevant and personalized.
Detecting single and weakly threaded deals
Single-threaded deals are the Achilles heel of B2B sales relationships. Single-threaded deals are deals in a company’s pipeline that only have one contact. Single-threaded deals are not always detrimental. Two features of a deal make single-threaded deals concerning—deals that require more than one decision-maker and deals that are about to close.
AI promises to identify single-threaded deals. But determining the number of “threads” isn’t very revealing. Simply having a relationship with a decision-maker at a company isn’t enough. What really matters is relationship strength. AI-powered tools like Affinity can calculate a relationship strength for each relationship that accounts for the full history of communication with a decision-maker. This value can be updated in real-time so that salespeople have fingertip access to relationship strengths and can not only identify which deals are single-threaded, but also which ones are weakly threaded.
Identifying high-quality leads
For years, sales professionals have developed strategies for identifying high-quality leads. Despite their efforts, lead scoring tools often fall short in priming sales professionals for success. Only 17% of organizations rate their lead scoring initiatives as highly effective.
With AI, sales professionals are able to score leads based on a multitude of different factors. AI can mine the multitude of different channels that today’s consumers interact with and determine whether potential leads are ready to buy, and also high-quality. Natural language processing and semantic analysis can reveal specific consumer sentiments that would otherwise go unnoticed to sales professionals. When this information is combined with demographic and other information, it reveals granular information that can enable sales professionals to focus their efforts on what really matters—building quality relationships with customers—rather than unproductively scouring for leads.
Increased email engagement
We’re flooded with emails. It’s easy for customer emails to get lost in the fray. A 2015 study by Eptica found that companies failed to respond to a staggering 39% of customer questions that had been submitted via email.
If you’re not quick to respond to customer emails, your customers will look the other way. One study found that people who took two or more weeks to respond to an email were viewed as less credible and ascribed with more negative attributes than others.
We’re living in the age of the customer. Responding to emails is table stakes for forging strong relationships. “Email silence” can send the subtle but powerful message that customers are not top of mind and that they are not important enough to warrant a prompt response. AI-powered tools can sort through sales peoples’ noise inboxes and detect emails that warrant a response. Moreover, AI can identify customers’ intentions for sending emails, immediately identify any at-risk relationships, and automatically suggest appropriate, high-quality responses.
AI promises to transform every industry—and sales is no exception. By transforming customers from numbers into humans, identifying relationship strengths, and increasing engagement, AI infuses more humanity into sales relationships and, in doing so, primes sales professionals for success.
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