Sales are a primarily human-to-human activity. The very nature of sales is entirely built upon human communication. The core of sales as a process is focused on one human being's ability to connect with another and convince them that they need to buy what the offeror has for sale. Successfully establishing relationships is key to landing a successful sale, which is why having strong communication skills is easily the most important focus for just about any person that works in sales. With the strong capabilities that artificial intelligence is bringing to the table, sales are being revolutionized as an industry. Competitive sales teams soon will leverage AI as a way to help them better scale, better communicate and operate with more intelligence in an increasingly more global and competitive field.
A Helpful AI-Enabled Sales Companion
One interesting way in which AI is being applied to sales is by helping to match the right prospects with the correct salesperson. Based off of a person's needs, AI systems can gather necessary information on the client and make sure that they get sent to a person who is most likely to effectively upsell them on their needs. We can see a future where these systems can recognize needs from a personality perspective and find appropriate matches for future communications. Since these AI systems can create and provide complex profiles on a customer, they are not only able to identify what their needs might be, but may even be able to make hyperpersonalized suggestions to a salesperson to align with that client's specific preferences. This can be utilized to make more effective pairings over time.
As these systems continue to learn about communication, speech patterns, and tones, they are more likely to be able to offer personalized insight for sales representatives before, during, and after customer interactions. The systems of the future might also suggest that a representative speak more slowly on a customer sales call or offer additional services based on keywords in a customer's email or phone conversation. When these systems gain a more concrete understanding of the subtleties within dialogue, it seems likely that AI will be able to provide insight or suggest helpful information to the representative to ensure that the customer is getting all of their questions answered. AI can also build a complete profile for a customer so that their individual needs do not get lost if their primary representative leaves the firm.
Another interesting way that this same technology can be used is for training. As AI systems learn more about what should and should not occur within a phone call, they will be able to provide personalized feedback on customer interactions. This can be effective for employees in a training class learning new skills because the AI will be able to coach them and offer insight on how to handle customer calls or emails. An AI-enabled system provides an invaluable way to consistently train and individually coach different representatives as they move forward in their career. Beyond the training room, these systems will also be able to provide personalized feedback and guidance to help existing representatives become more efficient at their processes. This will help maintain even performance levels and can increase the individual and corporate revenue for these employees. Though humans are notoriously subject to making mistakes, AI systems can keep a consistent watch on behavior without fatigue. This makes it possible for these systems to recognize when a customer is incredibly upset, and a manager should be informed of the situation.
Offloading Busy Work
AI-enabled sales systems are helping employees focus on what they care about getting more sales. AI bots are more than capable of taking on some of the busywork that employees are currently dealing with. By using these bots, sales associates can save time on reporting, entering information into systems, and converting information from one system to another. This provides them with more overall free time to work on establishing those concrete relationships with their clients so that they can effectively close more sales. This is an obvious benefit for both the employees and their companies.
Beyond merely handling basic busywork and reporting, AI may soon be able to take over the role of being the perfect sales assistant. AI bots are capable of identifying the needs of clients as well as sales associates to get the most out of their interactions. This might mean that the AI will be handling preemptive steps with a client by answering questions, providing information, and engaging with clients through email or text message. These systems can even recognize when a client hasn't reached out for a while and can save sales associates the time it takes to reach out and follow up.
Since AI can analyze data, these systems will be able to recognize leads that are slipping away and might be able to take action to keep those relationships alive. This might mean reaching out to a customer to detect their interest level, or merely providing insight to the fact that their interest level is growing and providing that information to the employee so that they can nurture the relationship further. With the power of big data, AI-enabled systems never forget, which means that these systems can happily go the extra mile to chase down new leads that an employee might otherwise not believe is worth their time or is very hard to get a hold of.
The day is not far off when an AI system recognizes a trigger word in customer interaction and provides immediate insight into the associate regarding what they should say. Since sales are primarily the goal of meeting customer demand with products and services that meet those needs, it should come as no surprise that AI is being used in creative ways to bring about the best possible outcome for both the sales representative and their client. By analyzing the ways that humans interact, these systems can help us to communicate more effectively. While a human might be caught up with what they are aiming to say next, these AI-enabled assistants are here to help us communicate a little more clearly.
Ronald Schmelzer, columnist, is senior analyst and founder of the Artificial Intelligence-focused analyst and advisory firm Cognilytica, and is also the host of the AI Today podcast, SXSW Innovation Awards Judge, founder and operator of TechBreakfast demo format events, and an expert in AI, Machine Learning, Enterprise Architecture, venture capital, startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems, and more. Prior to founding Cognilytica, Ron founded and ran ZapThink, an industry analyst firm focused on Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Cloud Computing, Web Services, XML, & Enterprise Architecture, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in August 2011.
Ron is a Parallel Entrepreneur, having started and sold a number of successful companies. The companies Ron has started and run have collectively employed hundreds of people, raised over $60M in Venture funding and exits in the millions. Ron was founder and chief organizer of TechBreakfast – the largest monthly morning tech meetup in the nation with over 50,000 members and 3000+ attendees at the monthly events across the US including Baltimore, DC, NY, Boston, Austin, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, Raleigh and more.
He was also founder and CEO at Bizelo, a SaaS company focused on small business apps, and was Founder and CTO of ChannelWave, an enterprise software company which raised $60M+ in VC funding and subsequently acquired by Click Commerce, a publicly traded company. Ron founded and was CEO of VirtuMall and VirtuFlex from 1994-1998, and hired the CEO before it merged with ChannelWave.
Ron is a well-known expert in IT, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), XML, Web Services, and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). He is well regarded as a startup marketing & sales adviser, and is currently mentor & investor in the TechStars seed stage investment program, where he has been involved since 2009. In addition, he is a judge of SXSW Interactive Awards and served on standards bodies such as RosettaNet, UDDI, and ebXML.
Ron is the lead author of XML And Web Services Unleashed (SAMS 2002) and co-author of Service-Orient or Be Doomed (Wiley 2006) with Jason Bloomberg. Ron received a B.S. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and MBA from Johns Hopkins University.