Philosophers have theorized about human intelligence for centuries. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that philosophers proposed the computational-representational theory of thought (CRTT), which considered human intelligence a mathematical construct. The question for CRTT philosophers and computer scientists became: Why couldn’t computers be taught to emulate human intelligence if human thought could be represented through calculations?
Sixty years later, the search for artificial intelligence (AI) has produced a market that is expected to reach nearly $165 billion in 2023, with a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.1% through 2029. Part of that growth comes from using AI tools for professional work, especially sales.
A recent survey found that 35% of businesses are using AI while 42% are exploring the option. According to Gartner, 75% of B2B sales organizations will augment traditional playbooks with AI by 2025 despite the current low adoption rate. Competitive pressure will drive companies to invest in AI tools for sales. Sales leaders will need to rethink their training to focus on enablement and to improve data literacy skills.
There’s no shortage of AI sales tools. There are virtual sales assistants, sales productivity tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. New tools continue to flood the market, making decisions challenging on adopting AI tools for sales. Rather than look at specific tools, organizations should first look at typical use cases to assess where AI can optimize sales performance.
Use Cases for AI Tools for Sales
The sales cycle is often divided into seven stages, from lead generation to completing a sale. However, the stages can be grouped into the following four broad categories:
- Acquiring and Qualifying Leads
- Nurturing Prospects
- Closing the Sale
- Training to Improve Performance
Each group has a clear goal that AI tools are designed to support. For example, AI can act as a resource during the nurturing phase to answer customer questions. It can also serve as a real-time resource to sales personnel as they address customer questions. By exploring examples, organizations can better determine how to use AI to improve their sales performance.
AI Tools for Acquiring and Qualifying Leads
Lead generation involves marketing campaigns, attending tradeshows, and making cold calls. It means engaging potential customers through all digital channels to create a list of contacts. Once a list is compiled, the qualification process begins to determine which of the leads are possible prospects. The process is time and labor intensive. When only 79% of leads will never convert to a sale, the traditional approach has a low return on investment (ROI).
Leveraging AI tools can reduce the time marketing and sales staff spend on lead generation. AI tools can search the internet for possible leads based on customer profiles. They can segment leads according to product line. Potential leads from the physical world, such as conferences and tradeshows, can be added to an AI-enabled prospecting tool for evaluation. Reducing the time sales reps spend on cold-calling means more energy can be devoted to closing a sale.
AI tools can personalize the initial contact. Rather than sending a generic email for visiting a website or stopping by an exhibit, AI can customize the interaction to reflect the product or service the potential buyer is interested in. AI can be persistent by sending follow-up emails to encourage a response. As AI processes more data, it learns more about customers to adjust its interactions to better fit different consumer segments.
As AI tools for sales become more advanced, their ability to qualify leads improves. AI can use lead-scoring algorithms to predict which leads are most likely to become customers. Sales teams can establish thresholds that identify different workflows. Depending on where a lead is in the buying process, the contact may be placed in an AI-enabled workflow that systematically maintains contact.
AI tools for sales can integrate with CRM solutions to deliver results that sales teams access. Sales staff do not have to create a new entry, which may introduce errors. AI productivity tools can help manage meetings, schedule appointments, and answer questions. AI allows sales personnel to focus on closing a sale without losing a lead.
AI Tools for Nurturing Prospects
Sales teams can use AI to maintain contact during the nurturing stage. Keeping prospects interested can seem like a never-ending process. The more zeros in the purchase price, the longer the process. According to Gartner, B2B buyers only spend 17% of their buying journey with potential suppliers. If multiple vendors are involved, the percentage can shrink to as low as 5%.
Buyers spend less time with suppliers and more time online. They spend as much as 27% of their time researching online and another 18% offline. Many look to suppliers for pertinent information, which is where AI sales tools can respond to requests for information. They can locate existing information, generate a custom email, and forward everything to the buyer without involving sales members.
AI is also useful in keeping large groups of data organized and optimizing workflow. When sales interactions are recorded in a CRM solution, AI can review prospects to determine the last contact and generate an email or text message if the time exceeds a given threshold. It can update the CRM record and notify the sales team of the contact.
AI can significantly reduce the time sales reps spend responding to buyer requests. If a potential client has a question, AI can quickly search company information to find the answer. The technology can even be programmed to identify the most knowledgeable company resource on a particular subject.
Buyers may ask for information to assist with their research, but they also use it as an evaluation tool. How quickly does the company respond? How on target is the information? They are using the sales cycle to assess how an organization operates. As more organizations deploy AI solutions, businesses will expect fast response times. Making a prospect wait hours for a response will become a competitive disadvantage.
AI Tools for Closing the Sale
The goal of nurturing is to move prospects to the buying phase where they are willing to entertain a proposal. At that point, the sales process enters the final stages of presenting an offer, countering objections, negotiating terms, and closing the sale. While AI can provide resources to help counter objections or suggest ways to tailor a presentation, people make the sale.
Presenting an Offer
In a competitive sales environment, a sales team may have 30 minutes on a Zoom call to review an offer. Product demonstrations may receive a longer presentation window but rarely enough to show all product features. When every moment counts, AI can provide insight into a prospect’s pain points, highlighting which features will have the most value. It can even perform ROI assessments to identify pricing that is most likely to be accepted.
Buyers raise objections as negotiation tactics or to learn how a company will address a feature that is not currently available. They use the objections to compare how competing businesses solve problems. AI tools for sales can predict objections and provide answers so sales presenters are well prepared. If the discussions occur after the presentation, AI technology can provide customized answers for sales personnel to deliver.
Closing the Sale
Receiving a sale is the goal. While AI can expedite the process of acquiring and qualifying leads, it cannot speed up the buying cycle. However, it can reduce the time spent on the front end of the process. In addition to responding to requests for information and maintaining contact, AI can deliver insights that help close a sale. These capabilities enable sales teams to optimize performance through a well-integrated AI and human workflow.
Sales organizations can establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine how AI will improve performance. They can evaluate efforts in the first two categories using mathematical formulas. However, closing the sale does not depend on AI. Aside from tracking win/loss statistics, evaluating the last category involves assessing a sales team’s performance.
Using AI Sales Tools for Training
Sales managers continually evaluate how sales personnel are performing. They coach them on sales techniques and send them to training to improve their skills. However, traditional training programs often fail because of a simple equation: Salespeople want to sell. Training takes them away from that goal. Incorporating sales training into their workday allows them to sell and train.
While the on-demand training approach may delight sales personnel, sales managers must adapt their leadership methods to provide the necessary follow-up. They need the capability to review training exercises when they have the time. AI can provide that personalized training.
Roleplay-based training is effective in improving sales skills, but few people enjoy having to perform in front of a group. AI-based role-playing solutions solve that problem. Using a cloud-based platform, salespeople can practice role-playing when it fits their schedule. Managers can review the exercises when they have the time. Everyone experiences a more authentic performance.
AI technology can analyze role-playing to identify areas for improvement. It can then provide exercises to help strengthen skills. For management, it provides feedback on individual and team performance. Managers can determine how on-message sales staff are when interacting with customers and can use the training program for faster onboarding.
Achieve Higher Performance with an AI Sales Platform
AI tools for sales can optimize performance throughout the sales cycle. They eliminate tedious and repetitive tasks and deliver resources for more effective interactions. By letting AI systematically nurture prospects until a sale is on the table, your sales reps can jump in and handle what they do best: close the sale.
With an AI-based training platform, sales teams can improve their performance without sacrificing sales. Organizations looking to improve their close rate and optimize performance should consider AI sales tools, such as Quantified’s AI-Powered Coaching Platform. Request a demo to see how our system can help optimize your sales teams’ performance.