Why Your Next Best Step is AI-Assisted Sales
“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.“ — Author William Gibson
What exactly is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What is AI-assisted sales? When you hear these terms, do you think of R2D2? Blade Runner? Or even Tron?
Many of us grew up thinking about AI this way—either helpful robots or an evil tool with the potential to run amok. These pop culture references show how little the average person knows about this amazing technology.
Simply, AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. The term AI is often used to describe machines that mimic functions that we associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving.
Capabilities currently considered AI include understanding human speech, competing in strategic games such as chess, Go, and poker, self-driving cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, and military simulations.
Today, AI is used across industries to help decision-makers draw insights from vast quantities of data. And now, AI has come to the profession of sales.
The Promise of Artificial Intelligence
The promise of AI has beckoned for decades. It began as an academic discipline in 1955 and, in the years since, has experienced waves of optimism, followed by disappointing lows, leading to new approaches and renewed interest.
This resurgence is due to advances in computer power, data, and techniques. AI has become an essential part of the tech industry, helping solve many challenging problems in computer science, software engineering and operations research. AI has also been adopted in other fields, including sales.
AI-assisted sales enablement systems are used by a growing number of organizations to analyze and transform sales-related data to assist sales leaders, trainers, managers, and coaches make better decisions.
The most advanced platforms mine this data to make real-time, actionable recommendations. And soon, these systems will be able to execute those recommendations independently, enabling even the largest sales organizations to reach goals that seem out of reach today.
The Evolution of Sales Enablement
The rise of AI-assisted sales is due to three factors:
- Market conditions: Increase in virtual selling and self-directed buyers’ journeys fueled by content
- Accessible data: Sophisticated data storage and analytics tools
- AI Advances: Innovations that allow the promise of AI to become a reality
AI-Assisted Sales Solutions
AI-assisted sales solutions are here—and not a moment too soon. The industry has reached a new level of sophistication. As the B2B buyer’s journey becomes more complex, sales teams must make better decisions, more quickly. We’ve entered an era of hybrid selling, with prospects and sellers meeting both in-person and virtually. Buyers now prefer to do research before meeting with sellers. In some cases, they prefer not to meet with a seller at all.
Organizations must be equipped to meet every buyer where they are and provide a personalized solution based on the data they’ve been able to gather. They also need to move beyond “one-side-fits-all” training so that sellers have the adaptability and flexibility to do business with these empowered buyers.
AI-assisted sales enablement solutions are rapidly improving and many organizations understand the need to invest in these innovative technologies. The number of companies implementing AI-related solutions has grown by 270% over the last four years, according to Seismic.
Analysts agree that the reality of AI is catching up to the promise and businesses are recognizing that change. According to McKinsey, 63% of executives reported revenue increases from AI adoption in the business units that were using AI.
The Era of Hybrid Virtual Selling
B2B sales is evolving and the Zoom-boom of 2020 has only accelerated those changes. Sales—including what’s referred to as the “last mile” where a sales representative engages directly with the buyer—is increasingly online and customer-driven.
Buyers are also taking more control of the customer journey by using online content and tools to research, compare, and move down the path of a purchasing decision, prior to engaging with sales. All signs suggest these trends will continue well beyond the pandemic, resulting in a new normal of hybrid online-offline selling with customers driving the sales process.
A Gartner survey reported that 27% of polled sales leaders agreed to permanently move field sellers to virtual sellers. In its report, The Future of Sales, Gartner estimates that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between vendors and buyers will take place in digital channels, largely due to buyer preference.
These shifts are resulting in a new role for sellers as sales facilitators. High-performing sellers must develop a deep understanding of their buyers and have access to a rich set of content to provide information and guidance to prospects as they navigate a wealth of competing information about products.
Actionable Insight for Sales Teams
In this new environment, AI has far-reaching benefits for sales teams, allowing executives to be better leaders, at pace and at scale. Sales enablement that uses AI provides proactive, in-the-moment, and detailed advice for changing sales situations, enabling managers to adjust strategy and sellers to deliver customized solutions.
Picture this: Instead of a seller spending time before a customer meeting trying to find competitive information, AI can surface intel based on the competitors that the prospect has been evaluating, and make specific content recommendations to handle the most likely objections. Upon the seller’s approval, the system takes care of delivering on those recommendations and pulls together customized content for the meeting.
Or this: Instead of a sales coach wading through hours of his or her team’s recorded sales calls, AI can pinpoint the exact moment a seller’s conversation with a buyer went off track, identify the correct messaging, and deliver a content asset or training module to educate the seller. Now picture this happening across a team of 50, 100, or 5000 sellers to understand the true impact of AI.
Accuracy and Efficiency at Scale
This is the future of AI-assisted sales. Successful salespeople will bring their emotional intelligence and social skills to the last mile, while leveraging the advice of AI systems that proactively prompt them with their “next best action,” surface relevant information, suggest conversations to have, and provide the context to support those actions.
Successful sales leaders will leverage AI-powered platforms to manage and scale their teams for the greatest impact. Overall, AI-enabled sales teams will perform more accurately, efficiently, and insightfully. The future is here.
To learn more about Allego’s AI-powered solution, check out AI-Enhanced Enablement.