Machine learning and artificial intelligence are two buzzwords that are thrown around a lot in the world of sales. Particularly in the realm of big data, the two terms are used interchangeably. However, they're not the same thing, and it's important to understand the role they play in sales.
Machine learning is the ability to give a computer access to data and then allow it to "learn" from that data. Over time, as the computer accumulates more data, it can identify patterns and make decisions with little human intervention.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a broader term that refers to a computer's ability to take what it has learned and use that to carry out tasks that are usually performed by a person. In sales, this includes identifying prospects and spotting which accounts are ready to make a purchase.
While the landscape has evolved, the basic core of account-based selling is the same: the more a salesperson knows about their client, the better they can tailor the sales experience and the higher likelihood of success. By harnessing the power of AI, a sales team can spend less time chasing down the wrong leads, boosting overall productivity and success.
AI for Prospecting
In order to be productive, a salesperson has to be able to actually have the time to sell. Unfortunately, for many sales teams, a large portion of time and resources are spent prospecting for leads rather than engaging with existing leads.
This is where AI comes in. In all likelihood, your organization already has large collections of data regarding your customers' behavioral and purchasing patterns. AI can identify these patterns and generate models to correlate signals if and at what point a customer has made a purchase. Then, those patterns can be applied to new prospects to recognize where they are in the pipeline.
By tracking descriptive data, that is, data about your current clients and qualified leads, AI can identify sales leads more quickly, and sales teams can avoid wasting time on leads that were never going to be converted.
AI for Opportunities
A salesperson who has a rich pipeline of qualified potential clients must constantly make decisions regarding where their time and energy are best focused in order to close deals. Often, this decision-making process relies heavily on experience and gut instinct. Unfortunately, regardless of how seasoned a salesperson is, gut instinct is not always reliable. As a result, a lot of time can be poured into pursuing clients who are not ready to make a decision while neglecting clients who are.
When it comes to using AI for sales leads, the focus is often less on automation and more on using big data to help sales professionals engage potential buyers more effectively. While it's not a substitute for human intuition, AI can be used to gather historical information about a client, the salesperson's interaction history with the client and even the client's social media postings. Then, this information can be used to rank the opportunities according to where they are in the sales funnel.
By using data regarding your prospects' characteristics, what actions your sales team has taken, what other factors may have influenced the decision and what the outcome was, AI can make predictions about what solutions would be effective for a potential client, who in your organization can influence the deal and what activities would increase the likelihood of closing the deal.
Making AI Work for You
AI software can do everything from finding leads to guiding clients through the pipeline. To put this technology to work for your business, it's important that you determine what type of data you need, what your goals are and which partner will help you achieve that goal.
Identify the Data Required
AI needs four types of data to be effective: descriptive data regarding your prospects' characteristics; activity data, which outlines the points of contact your teams has made; contextual data, which outlines other factors that may have influenced the decision; and outcome data, which tells whether or not the lead was converted.
Identify Your Goal
Whether your goal is to spend less time prospecting for leads, to automate the interactions that take place at the top of your sales funnel or to ensure that you're pursuing clients who are likely to make a purchase, it's important to decide what your ideal outcome would look like.
Identify the Right Partner
Some AI-powered platforms allow you to enter in your ideal customer or target account and then find companies that fit your criteria almost instantly. Other partners use AI-powered chatbots to engage and educate new site visitors by answering basic questions, routing conversations to the sales team and scheduling sales meetings. Your goals should guide you in choosing the right partner for the needs of your sales team.
While AI won't replace human interaction when it comes to building a relationship with clients, it can help salespeople become more effective and efficient. By understanding how AI can be used in prospecting and sales, you can boost your sales team's productivity and improve conversion rates.
Also checkout our article on AI for Optimizing Sales and AI for Digital Marketing.