The Genesis of AI for Sales Suites
WHEN we at Sales Mastery conducted our initial research into artificial intelligence (AI) for sales in 2017, we noted that we were cautiously optimistic regarding the impact this would have on optimizing sales performance. We cited some examples where very targeted AI-for-sales tools were emerging to uniquely deal with specific obstacles facing sales organizations. But we also noted several factors that would limit widespread adoption of these new tools. A key barrier was the fact that historically, while point-solution technologies will attract early adopters, usage doesn’t become widespread until these pieces of the puzzle are merged into suites where users can solve multiple challenges via a single solution.
Fast-forward to today. In our most recent AI-for-sales study, we found noticeably more companies utilizing AI-for-sales solutions. And when we dug deeper into what exactly they had implemented/were implementing, it became clear that these firms were open to leveraging AI to address multiple aspects of sales enablement, as seen in the chart above.
The study also surfaced an increase in the number of sales organizations that were evaluating/planning to evaluate AI for sales this year. When we asked those firms to share specifically what types of AI functionality they were considering, we again found the interest was not in implementing a single AI capability to deal with a single sales performance challenge but rather deploying a suite of capabilities to tackle multiple sales challenges at once.
When we asked both these groups to share the specific solution providers they were working with, what we saw was a desire to work with sales enablement technology firms that were merging multiple AI capabilities to make more robust solutions. Some examples of this were Seismic’s acquisition of Grapevine6 and Bigtincan’s acquisition of Brainshark.
In addition, we are seeing the core CRM solution providers making moves to acquire/develop AI capabilities that they can embed/integrate into their platforms. An example of this is what Salesforce is doing with Tableau, Einstein, etc., so that sales professionals can have easy, or even seamless, access to the power of AI in the systems they are already using daily.
We expect both trends to accelerate in 2022, which will lead to optimized sales performance and noticeably increase the ROI that sales organizations can expect to achieve. Therefore, we can expect to see further consolidation of Al-for-sales point solutions that have been available for a few years now.
At the same time, we will continue to see a steady stream of new AI solutions coming to market to solve a broader range of sales challenges that have plagued organizations for decades. As some of these tools prove their value, we fully expect them to become tuck-in acquisition candidates, making AI-for-sales suites more and more robust.
The net net from the research is that AI for sales is real, here to stay, and will only become more of a game changer in the world of selling over the next couple years. Our advice to sales organizations that have been waiting to consider AI-empowering their sales teams is that now is the time to, at the very least, educate yourself on what these solutions can do. Waiting too long to adopt them could put you at a significant disadvantage.
Jim Dickie is a research fellow at Sales Mastery, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking case study examples of how companies are leveraging technology to transform sales. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jimdickie.
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