Artificial intelligence is reshaping how sales organizations across every industry are doing business. It can increase revenue by speeding up response times, improving marketing and outreach with more personalized communications, and boosting closed-won rates by giving a sales team better insight into leads. Simultaneously, AI sales technology can reduce expenses by automating repetitive tasks, decreasing delays caused by bottlenecks and back-and-forth communications, and eliminating the need for manual data entry.
And it’s working: One study found that companies that incorporated AI into their sales processes saw revenue increases of up to 15% and expense decreases of up to 20%. That alone is enough reason to incorporate AI sales technology into your workflows. But with all these moving monetary targets, measuring the true financial impact of adopting AI, as well as calculating how much of your sales budget you can allocate toward it, is one of the biggest challenges businesses have as we move into 2024.
This guide will give you a firmer footing as you start refining your sales technology budget for the coming months. We’ll cover why AI sales technology needs to be a core consideration in your budget in the first place—ignoring AI can quickly become detrimental to your business. Then we’ll take a closer look at how to factor AI into your budget, including the advantages of making AI its own separate category and how to avoid both overspending and underspending on business-critical AI sales tools in 2024.
The Prominent Role of AI Sales Technology in Today’s Workplace
At least 21% of sales professionals directly use artificial intelligence in their work as of June 2023, and 83% of organizations describe implementing AI as one of their top business priorities. What these numbers indicate is that AI is quickly becoming universal, both across and within sales organizations.
As AI continues to develop, tech companies are creating increasingly diverse tools that use this technology to do everything—from synthesizing data, to automatically reminding professionals of priority tasks (based on AI-driven criteria), to even generating sophisticated communications. Soon enough, trying to map out who uses AI will be like trying to map out who uses electronics to do their work.
Some of the key places where you may already find AI in your sales processes (or will need to incorporate it for the year ahead) are:
- Reaching out to leads and leads
- Scoring and prioritizing leads
- Data syncing and auditing
- As a sales knowledge resource
- Real-time support during sales calls and interactions
- Sales coaching and training
- Assessing work performance and deciding promotions, assignments, and new roles
- Supporting internal communications
Everywhere you turn, there will be AI—if it isn’t there already.
Why You Need to Add AI Sales Technology as Its Own Budget Planning Category
Given everything you have to plan for as a sales leader, it may be tempting to let the CIO take the lead on budgeting and planning for AI tools. After all, there’s a benefit in thinking organization-wide in terms of AI adoption to avoid redundancy and data silos while planning for a holistic solution.
But separate AI tools have already gained footholds in other areas of your organization. Your marketing team, for example, is using tools like Grammarly at a minimum and, more likely, is experimenting with a suite of tools such as ChatGPT and Writer. In Sales, you may already be using AI for account scoring, email creation, key account software, and more. Given the pace of innovation, waiting for someone else to lead the dance on AI sales technology adoption risks leaving you without a chair when the music stops.
So you’ll want to adopt valuable tools quickly while playing nicely with the CIO and CFO, since they’ll focus on enterprise-wide data consistency and enterprise-wide ROI.
How to Factor AI Sales Technology into Your Future Sales Budgets
Once you’ve communicated to your organization’s leaders that you’ll be leading the charge on adoption of AI for sales technologies, it’s time for the next step.Walk through this four-step process of setting budget thresholds, purchasing the tools and services for the right data ecosystem and AI sales technology, and evaluating spending over time. This bird’s eye view can quickly show you the value of both creating a category specifically for AI and allocating a generous portion of the budget into that category.
1: Delineate the Wants, Needs, and Goals That AI Will Impact
Well-planned budgets don’t simply set hard limits on what funds are available for different types of expenses. They should also help facilitate the completion of key objectives by continually assessing the value of a tool in reaching business goals and determining whether different budget allowances should shrink or increase. Past budgets also serve as a record of performance, ROI, and predictability.
So as you start developing your AI sales technology budget, operate from that perspective and do the following:
- Set a time frame the budget will apply for.
- Pull in data from previous years’ AI-related spending, essentially shifting anticipated spending into this new category.
- Use industry research to see what AI sales technology competitors and other organizations are using and how much they’re spending.
- Set your AI goals for the year, whether you’re just beginning to build an infrastructure or are prioritizing key goals like automations or training.
2: Determine the Initial Investment and Ongoing Costs
Now, you can get into the specific details of your budget. Because you’re looking at AI sales tech as a whole, consider these three categories:
Before you can optimize your processes to revolve around AI, you need that critical data architecture. This includes ecosystemic software, security programs, custom development work, and integrations so all of your applications can share data with each other properly. This will involve upfront investment in the system through a large-scale implementation project. After that, it will have ongoing subscription and maintenance costs, as well as the occasional integration project as you add new AI platforms to your tech stack.
Licenses and Subscriptions
Develop a pricing sheet of all the licenses and subscriptions you will use for your AI programs. Vendors may not lock in prices until there’s a signed agreement, but these prices can help you do the preliminary math so you know you’re operating within your budget constraints. Depending on your available budget, you may have to prioritize some adoptions for 2024 and leave others for when the financial benefits of AI measurably kick in.
Don’t forget training costs! Employees will need transitional time and resources to learn how the AI programs work for each of their unique sales roles. In this category, you might also note slowdowns in productivity that can impact revenue in the short term.
3: Calculate the Anticipated ROI Over Time
Once you finalize your budget or have a working budget in place, make sure to regularly revisit the budget. Set milestones by which you should see certain increases in revenue, productivity, or task completion, and measure progress at each of those points. Then you can determine if certain AI platforms or costs are worth the investment.
Over time, you can use baseline numbers and changes to measure the return on investment, or ROI, of your AI sales technology. This may be incredibly slow, or the improvements may be small compared to a large upfront investment. Alternatively, you may quickly see improvements and generate a positive ROI within just a matter of months.
As your pool of data grows, you can also create model forecasts of future ROI instead of just measuring past performance. Using this approach, you can tentatively plan the adoption of new AI sales technology through the increased savings or revenue brought about by your then-current AI transformations.
4: Prioritize Which AI Sales Technology Should Come First If Total Adoption Isn’t Possible
In every budget, there will be trade-offs. You likely won’t be able to adopt every single AI tool that will benefit your organization, at least not all at once. Instead, develop a clear schema for deciding which tools you will adopt first and which changes should be put off. You can use criteria such as:
- Smallest Cost: Relatively inexpensive changes that provide clear benefits can be an excellent testing ground that can succeed with minimal buy-in.
- Fastest Return on Investment: Use these AI tools to test the waters and build momentum for more and more changes.
- Biggest Value: If you can get your leadership team invested in large platform changes that promise to provide a lot of value, this is often the best course of action. You’ll see an immediate, significant impact, even if large investments require a longer timeline to become ROI-positive.
- Fastest Organizational Learning: which tools will help your team move fastest up the AI learning curve? Prioritize those, because it will help your team keep pace with – or outrun – competitors.
Get Started: Build Your Sales AI Capabilities
Your organization can benefit from using AI sales technology. But it’s important to develop a clear budget and process for adopting this new technology. By creating an AI category in your sales budget, you can better manage costs, transparently measure the effects, and be in a good position to decide subsequent investments in the future. Quantified AI-powered sales training and coaching platforms can give your team measurable value on a fast timeline so you can reach your financial KPIs. Contact us today to discuss the numbers and get clear pricing answers for your budget planning.