The Various Roles of Sales AI
In my past two columns, I examined the impact that sales artificial intelligence will have on the profession of sales and then looked at the ROI sales AI is already generating today. Here, let’s dive into how leading-edge sales organizations are currently leveraging sales AI to increase the performance of their sales teams.
As part of the 2023 Sales Performance Scorecard study, Sales Mastery surveyed more than 500 sales executives. For those working for firms that have already started to implement AI to optimize sales performance, we asked them to share with us the specific types of functionalities they’re harnessing. The chart summarizes their responses.
Through a series of case study interviews, details on how these capabilities are being put to use emerged. What we see is two main categories of application. The first is leveraging sales AI to reduce the administrative burden on salespeople. AI is able to take over a variety of time-consuming tasks such as scheduling appointments, documenting the outcome of sales calls, sending relevant information to other sales team members and managers, creating/updating CRM records, etc. This in turn gives salespeople more time to spend on actual selling tasks.
The second category of usage is more about sales effectiveness. Sales AI can help identify which prospects to pursue (and why) and then generate highly targeted messaging to motivate a prospect to want to start to engage with a salesperson. Then during the sales cycle, AI can create customized sales content that is tailored to prospects’ unique needs, give intelligence on which individuals to engage inside a prospect’s organization, provide 24/7 coaching to salespeople on which steps to take next and how to execute them, and so on. Buttressed by all this support, sales professionals can more effectively engage with prospects throughout the sales process.
Looking at the chart, though, the most compelling item on the list for me is “Other.” The excitement around generative AI is quickly coalescing into new concepts for how to use AI as a thought partner to collaborate and cocreate in ways we could never imagine before. Those concepts are being turned into solutions that skilled business professionals can easily leverage. And in the world of sales, those solutions are already demonstrating new ways of redefining and reinventing major aspects of customer lifetime management that will set the stage for turning how a company sells into a sustainable competitive advantage.
At a recent sales executive forum, I was on panel that was asked to comment how the sales AI space has evolved over the past five years, from the embryonic stage to right at the doorstep of ubiquitous usage. We each were then asked to summarize our view on what sales AI will do going forward. I choose to paraphrase an observation that Rob Thomas, COO of IBM, made about AI for business in general, but adapted his thoughts to the world of sales: “AI might not replace traditional salespeople, but sales professionals who use AI will definitely replace those who do not.”
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 on X @jimdickie.
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