Sales AI vs. Traditional CRM
After my last column, which focused on the cost companies incurred by not adequately investing in the tools reps needed to sell in uncertain times, I received a lot of feedback pointing out I had tackled only half the challenge. Some readers noted that I did not address precisely why new technology is or could be something that really optimizes sales performance.
So here let’s address the issue of technology ROI. I followed up with a couple of people who had commented on the column, and they made a point I had under-considered. They said they had been using CRM for several years, and that while it had proved useful, it had never really lived up to their expectations in terms of turbo-charging their sales teams. In examining their experiences further, they shared that they viewed traditional CRM as useful for increasing sales efficiency—it helped decrease administrative work, improve communications across sales teams, and streamline (not necessarily improve) the forecast process. Those functions were seen as helpful in giving sales professionals more time to sell, but they did little to improve how effectively they sell.
Point well taken. But let me share another perspective on the use of technology that arose when we conducted Sales Mastery’s 2023 Sales Performance Scorecard survey. Among the 80-plus metrics we gathered from hundreds of sales organizations worldwide were insights into the impact brought by the emergence of sales AI. The chart above summarizes the operational benefits that a small but growing number of firms using AI technology are currently achieving.
Here we again see that AI increases selling time, which it does by automating tasks such as CRM record management. But it doesn’t stop there. Continuing down the list we see reports of sales AI directly contributing to increasing sale revenue, improving win rates, optimizing sales coaching, helping new sales hires get to full revenue production sooner, increasing margins, and more. These are clear examples that sales AI is increasing the effectiveness of sales teams, representing improvements that the C-suite can directly relate to.
And that’s not all. When firms that have implemented sales AI were asked to project the impact sales AI will have in three years, 68.5 percent said that sales organizations that weren’t using AI will be at a significant disadvantage compared to the companies that had taken the plunge. So we likely have only started to see what AI can do.
The takeaway from the study data is that we should not look at sales AI through the ROI lens of what core CRM has historically done. And one trend to consider is that companies like Salesforce have already announced that they will be adding some sales AI capabilities to their core CRM offerings without any increase in SaaS fees, so core CRM should start to generate more sales efficacy improvements. But more importantly, in reviewing product road maps from sales AI solution providers, one can see advances on the near-term horizon that will redefine many aspects of customer life cycle management. I will be covering some of those in my next column.
Jim Dickie is a Research Fellow for 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 at @jimdickie.
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