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How To Prepare Your Sales Team For AI Adoption

Jonathan Gray

August 16th, 2017

future of sales artificial intelligence

The future of sales is at our doorstep — artificial intelligence.

AI is quickly becoming more powerful — and it’s starting to change the way we live in decidedly subtle, but significant, ways. If you’re a sales manager, you’ll want to embrace these changes sooner rather than later.

“Growth-focused sales organizations of every size and stage cannot afford to ignore the benefits of AI-assisted sales”

– EverString founder and CEO, J.J. Kardwell.

“It enables your team to automate prospecting by using machine learning to offload the most time-consuming tasks, and it helps your team focus on the best targets both inside and outside of your existing pipeline, so they can spend more time closing and less time searching for which prospects to pursue.”

Find Your Match

The role AI plays in our lives, while certainly expanding in terms of both consumer and business applications, is far from the dystopian, robots-roaming-the-street imagery that fiction predicts. It’s subtle, like when Siri answers our most inane questions or Netflix recommends a movie to watch.

Finding an AI partner to complement your company will exponentially benefit this transition. Still, if you’re not quite there yet, here are a few things you can do to ensure your sales team doesn’t fall behind.

4 Tips To Prepare For The Future Of Sales

prepare future sales artificial intelligence

1) Add Data

AI is quickly becoming the best friend data never knew it needed. It’s a union that benefits executives with a wide range of goals.

Executable data from AI and machine learning can be more effective, especially if leaders want to:

  • Prioritize their existing sales pipeline
  • Bring new prospects into the pipeline
  • Identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell existing customers

Once the right kind of data is collected, AI can also help make more nuanced decisions. It can help pinpoint under-managed, low-volume accounts that need an account manager or help executives find ways to anticipate and avoid customer churn.

Data is the fuel that allows machine learning and AI-based applications to grow and become truly useful. Even if leaders can’t take advantage of it, they should still be collecting and storing it.

Don’t Ignore data – Anyone doing so is falling behind. Unfortunately, many businesses are still slow to adapt — and in today’s business world, lethargy can be fatal.

Use your data correctly –  A survey of CMOs conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business confirms as much. Respondents to the study gave their companies an average of 3.2 points on a five-point scale in terms of their abilities to use customer insights, while their abilities to integrate customer data across channels to improve decision-making got a 3.4 on a seven-point scale.

Your data is only as strong as the means in which it’s applied. Make sure the information gathered is going toward a reachable purpose.

Don’t Freeze up – Technological innovation continues to accelerate, but many companies just can’t keep up. And it’s not only because they’re unable to collect data. Some face a different problem: Too much data is leading to a sort of “analysis paralysis.”

“Almost every sales team faces two common growth challenges: prioritizing inbound leads and identifying relevant net-new prospects that look like their best customers”

– EverString founder and CEO, J.J. Kardwell.

“You need comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate sales intelligence that seamlessly addresses these two challenges. It also needs to be intuitive enough that every rep can easily access the information they need for account research, meeting preparation, and customizing sales outreach.”

2) Align Processes

align sales processes

Siloed structures are a reality in today’s corporate culture. Maybe salespeople think they’re great at closing deals, but marketing can’t send them anything, or the marketing team thinks it’s driving plenty of leads, but the guys in sales can’t close.

“Every business wants to accelerate its growth. To do this, sales and marketing teams need easy access to the most critical insights and information on every relevant prospect. Because this information is constantly changing and massive in scale, AI plays a critical role in synthesizing the world’s data and delivering the most mission-critical insights and information directly into the hands of sales and marketing teams.”

Don’t Allow divisive thinking to pervade your business – Steer both marketing and sales toward a single overarching goal. Whether the objective is creating a better product, growing the customer base, or increasing revenue, leadership needs to ensure that both departments leverage the data into something executable for both.

3) Measure & Monitor

track measure analytics

If an old process seems to be losing effectiveness, don’t hesitate to break it down and build it back up. Companies often fear moving away from current, tried-and-true processes built up through years of scrutiny and precision; these old-school databases or lead-management techniques used to work so well that they don’t want to ditch them just yet.

As soon as a pattern of ineffective outcomes emerges, reconsider — and rejigger — current methods. If you stick with an outdated process for too long just because it’s more convenient, you’ll continue to fall short of your goals, so be flexible.

Don’t Assume a shiny piece of new tech will solve all your problem – If your team is used to doing things a certain way, it will take time to learn a new process and implement new tools, but teaming AI with data will have far-reaching and long-lasting implications.

4) Sharpen Your Focus

Appeal to the customers most likely to use and benefit from your product or service. To do that, you need to know what customers want. A lack of empathy for the customer or end user often reveals itself in a poorly designed product or user experience. But it’s critical that sales and marketing teams develop empathy as well.

With a machine learning platform, you’ll be able to create more refined customer models and easily identify the companies or individuals who match those. These advanced analytics capabilities can lead to incredible efficiency gains and overall revenue growth.

Don’t Try to reach everyone – Instead of focusing on moving leads down the marketing funnel or closing deals, have them think about customer needs and alleviating pain points before trying to sell something.

Indeed, lots of companies now have so much data at their fingertips that it can be hard to figure out what to do with it all or how to make it relevant and useful. Let machine learning applications do the legwork when it comes to turning results into prospect needs and behavior and identifying optimization opportunities for sales and marketing.

The Final Takeaways

Business leaders, sales and marketing executives, and entrepreneurs should strive to incorporate machine learning platforms into their sales and marketing processes. They may not be able to pour tons of money into the latest data analytics software, but the good news is that a company won’t need to in order to reap the benefits.

Even if you don’t yet have a sophisticated analytics platform, be sure to:

  • Get your team into the habit of using AI to learn about customers.
  • Put the customer’s needs front and center.

Today’s customers want to buy into your company, not just buy from it. Show them why they should.

About the author

Jonathan Gray

Jonathan Gray is the senior vice president of marketing and leader of business development and marketing services for Revana, TeleTech’s Growth Services division. His team oversees marketing analytics and integrated marketing services programs that automate electronic marketing strategies on behalf of industry-leading clients. He was involved in developing new digital marketing and sales solutions, such as Revana Analytic Multichannel Platform (RAMP) and Revana AQ360SM, which won a Gold Stevie as the 2016 Best New Marketing Solution.

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