Leading in Uncertain Times: An AI Advantage

Leading in Uncertain Times: An AI Advantage

In 2019, we conducted our first AI-for-Sales Research Study into if/how sales organizations were leveraging advances in AI technology to enhance their technology stack in ways that further increased sales efficiency and effectiveness. While in its embryonic stage back then in  terms of adoption, AI innovations were already starting to show promise in introducing new ways of dealing with a variety of the age-old sales challenges.

As part of the SPS study, we integrated many of the questions asked in the previous AI-for-Sales studies. This year we found that 16% of the firms surveyed reported they have implemented/are implementing some AI capabilities into their sales tech stack. A contributor to this growth in adoption is that CRM vendors are now adding AI-powered capabilities into their standard offerings versus having them be additional priced add-ons, and we expect that trend to continue.

To provide an overview of what role AI is playing within those firms we asked the study participants to share the specific functionality they implemented. A summary of the responses to this question is seen in the chart to the right.

Let’s review each of these functionally areas in more detail.

Sales Activity/Call Analysis

Purpose: Provide sales teams with metrics on various types of sellers and buyer engagement

AI-enabled Functionality: Gathers sales activity metrics via analyzing seller and buyer interactions (e.g., emails, appointments, phone calls, web meetings, etc.), assesses seller/buyer alignment, automates CRM record creation/updating, provides actionable insights for sales professionals and managers, shares the voice-of-the-customer across the enterprise, etc.

Sales Intelligence Analysis

Purpose: Optimize territory and key stakeholder analysis

AI-enabled Functionality: Comprehensively asses a company’s total addressable market, provides insights into prospect organizations, prioritizes the best accounts to pursue, identifies buying event triggers, targets the right stakeholders to connect with, delivers insights into how to engage with them, etc.

Forecast Management Analysis

Purpose: Provide sales teams with metrics and insights to optimize forecast accuracy

AI-enabled Functionality: Analyzes data from key sales activities, provides sales management with the metrics needed to continuously assess the status of each forecast deal, proactively identifies deals that are at risk and why, provides insights into how to get deals back on track, determines what deals to stop pursuing, identifies unforecasted deals that can be accelerated, etc.

Content Management

Purpose: Provide sales teams with the right insights, news, and content to share with prospects

AI-enabled Functionality: Identifies for sellers which sales tools to leverage, with what type of stakeholder, at which stage in the sell cycle; helps enhance buyer understanding of solutions and its competitive differentiation, analyzes buyer interest and their intent, provides sales with best practices recommendations, etc.

Demand Generation Management

Purpose: Help sellers generate and convert more leads

AI-enabled Functionality: Supports sellers in conducting prospecting campaigns including sequencing, enhancing, and managing emails and calls, provides persona-based insights for effective prospect engagement, supports social outreach to establish a seller’s credibility, objectively scores leads and opportunities, provides lead nurturing support, etc.

Lead Qualifying/Appointment Setting

Purpose: Provide sellers with a virtual assistant to help engage more customers

AI-enabled Functionality: Integrates with CRM and marketing systems, optimizes lead follow-up via email or SMS, coordinates meeting scheduling for sellers, facilitates lead nurturing, supports existing account communication, provides insights into unique messaging to use with prospects, etc.

Prospect Engagement/Messaging

Purpose: Deliver to sellers the insights needed to have meaningful and impactful interactions with prospects/clients

AI-enabled Functionality: Provides sellers with support for effective and value-added face-to-face, phone, and email interactions with prospects and customers via individualized persona analysis, shares targeted conversation insights, conducts emotional feedback analysis, generates impactful visualizations, etc.

Sales Coaching

Purpose: Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the people leading sales teams

AI-enabled Functionality: Provides support services for sales managers including assessing which sellers need help on specific opportunities, assesses sales skills that need improvement and evaluates the coachability of sellers, provides virtual coaching support to augment manager coaching, surfaces and shares best practices across the salesforce, suggests individualized coaching plans and monitors progress, etc.

Salesperson/Manager Training

Purpose: Sales process and sales skills training reinforcement

AI-enabled Functionality: Provides individualized sales training, practice, and virtual coaching reinforcement on sales process and sales skills; ensures sales professionals fully comprehend and can effectively integrate training concepts into their daily workflow, provides feedback on other areas of improvement, tracks progress to achieve those recommendations, etc.

Diving deeper into the experiences of existing users of AI-for-Sales solutions, we asked the study participants to share the specific improvements in sales performance they saw from having their salespeople leverage these advanced capabilities.

With the looming uncertainty of what 2023 will be like from an economic and political perspective, finding more ways to optimize sales performance needs to be top-of-mind for sales management. Seeing AI-for-Sales users report increases in both win rates and revenues per salesperson tied at the top of the list of benefits being achieved creates a case for exploring how these solutions might benefit any sales organization.

One last item to consider…What is the longer-term impact AI will have on sales? To gain insights into this, we asked the study participants to give their views on the importance that AI-for- Sales will have three years from now. We then segmented those responses based on whether a company had implemented AI, was evaluating it, or had no interest. The chart to the right shows a marked difference in responses.

As the “no interest in AI” group represented nearly half of the firms participating in the 2022 SPS study, they would be wise to investigate exactly what the “implemented AI” group knows that they may not.

Read the full report for a look at the other eight critical challenges facing today’s industry leaders, identified in the Sales Mastery 2022 Sales Performance Scorecard Study Analysis.