Artificial Intelligence and the Future of B2B Sales

Author: 
Jeff Winters

You wouldn’t expect Michael Phelps to skim the pool for dead mosquitos before a big race — he’s too busy warming up. So why drown your B2B sales team in administrative tasks better served by artificial intelligence? It makes about as much sense as asking Phelps to spend his time cleaning instead of swimming.

Most salespeople have far too many mundane responsibilities on their “to-do” lists. Each one takes focus away from wowing customers and engaging in continuous learning, and it robs your company of precious revenue.

The more your sales folks can concentrate on the art of selling, the better. After all, that’s what you hired them to do. But at this point, fewer than a quarter of companies have incorporated even a touch of AI into their operational protocols. That’s barely a drop in the bucket, and it means you have the chance to disrupt if you dare to dive deep into advanced tech.

AI Is Stoking the Sales Field Fires

You don’t have to reinvent any wheels to begin adding AI into your sales process. It’s already available in software and on platforms. Not only does it use data to tell your salespeople where to dig, but it does so instantaneously.

What might take a lifetime for a human to figure out comes naturally to AI, which triggers in on macro-level opportunities. Machine learning software can help reveal which customer profiles are hot, decreasing the amount of time salespeople have to spend figuring that out themselves. Want proof? Among business leaders who have joined the AI bandwagon, 54% say their efficiencies have noticeably improved.

Still feel fishy about adopting AI? Not embracing it is the equivalent of those business dinosaurs who thought the internet was a fad. (God rest their souls.) If you’re against learning how to use the most powerful tools on the planet, know that your competitors aren’t. The objective economic market will do the rest.

Of course, some level of reluctance is understandable. Sales and marketing have tilted toward the qualitative, not the quantitative, for generations. Nonetheless, hard data and insights that give clearer B2B sales directions are invaluable. And 63% of companies have admitted that they’ll have to use AI eventually anyway to get leaner.

In other words, it’s time to take the plunge into the AI world. Start by focusing on these three key areas of selling augmented by machine learning:

Prospecting - Who ever has enough smokin’ hot, qualified leads? No one, that’s who. Machine learning helps sales experts to home in on top prospects by collecting and synthesizing data. After leads are pulled, they can be converted using AI-discoverable deal patterns. Imagine how swiftly motivated prospects could move through B2B sales funnels with a little help from algorithms.

For the bottom line, this is all as good as it sounds. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that when companies incorporated AI into their selling processes, their leads increased by 50%. At the same time, call time plummeted — sometimes as much as 70%. By these figures, it’s clear that AI can help sales leaders more intentionally direct resources and teams as well as stop burning through dead-end prospects.

Messaging templates - They’re easy. They’re rapid-fire. And they often stink. Sure, some templates work wonders, but not with all sales leads. No one likes to receive what looks like generic content. AI can breathe life into lagging templates by taking the conversation from “Which template worked better?” to “Which sentence or word worked like a charm?” In fact, AI can craft unique messages to millions of leads and customers simultaneously and effortlessly.

The more granular you can get in your messaging, the more customized your approach will seem. By adding nuance to your sales campaigns with sophisticated machine learning, you’ll make stronger connections with target buyers. So says the Epsilon Email Institute, which noted that AI-created emails returned more than 70% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than their generic counterparts. The key to making machine learning emails happen, of course, is for data and creative teams to work closely together so they can make rapid adjustments based on collective findings.

Administrative time reduction - Has your team been funneling prospects through appropriate channels by hand? Allow machine learning to manage the pipeline on your behalf based on historical data. Not only will this free up your representatives’ time, but it also has the potential to eliminate mistakes that can be chalked up to human error.

As they provide campaign management help, intelligent processes will also collect and curate millions of data points. From there, your platforms can adjust and auto-feed specific types of opportunities through more customized tracks that yield higher win rates. You can also easily extrapolate this logic to messaging, touchpoints, content — the possibilities are great. And all of this can be accomplished without the expense of a new hire.

As the sales industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s time to stop slowing down your salespeople with administrative tasks and start embracing the tech trends. Allow AI to ensure smooth sailing through all your B2B sales functions, and over time, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without the machine learning to keep your sales team at peak performance.

Jeff Winters is founder and CEO of Sapper Consulting, which replaces cold calling for its clients. It’s cooler than it sounds.