Artificial Intelligence and Its Impact on Sales and Marketing

Paula Sanders

There’s a lot of hype around artificial intelligence, but the reality of its impact to sales and marketing strategies promises to be positive. In the latest Digital Trends report, which surveyed marketing, creative and technology professionals, nearly one third of organizations are planning to invest in AI within 12 months – a market projected to reach $70 billion by 2020. That’s a significant opportunity.

However, just as technology has evolved, so has the customer’s sales approach. Deals are increasingly more complex and customers have access to more information earlier in the sale. Customers are also buying in different ways – they can go direct to a vendor, a partner, or even an online marketplace – and typically delay initial contact with suppliers until they are 57% through the purchase process.

It emphasizes that it’s not what you’re selling, but how you’re selling, and that the entire purchase experience is more influential than the company and brand, product and service delivery, and the value-to-price ratio. Following are how you can navigate through AI and its impact on sales and sales jobs in the future.
Artificial Intelligence Is Here – Embrace It

AI-enabling technologies are becoming more prominent in all industries, not just the tech world. We see this with machine learning and natural language processing technologies that not only automate repeatable tasks but also learn from exceptions in a process. Our new digital workers, consisting of software robots, will be used by at least 40% of enterprises. For example, if a company is looking for an invoice processing solution, AI-enabled software learns what to do if specific fields are missing data or aren’t matching up.

This new digital workforce augments staff by taking on mundane tasks, enhancing the customer experience and the C-suite by optimizing processes.  

Be Excited about AI

AI is creating new technology jobs and revolutionizing how enterprises meet their IT needs. Fueled by a six-fold increase in venture capital investment, the number of jobs requiring AI-related skills has more than quadrupled since 2013. Machine intelligence is giving rise to low-code and no-code development platforms, enabling “citizen developers” to build professional-grade applications with little formal software developer training.

Rather than watch the AI conversation run past you, dive into it, get excited about the possibilities, and imagine how it can work for your industry. To get started, there are many webinars and podcasts that can easily bring you up to speed on the various technologies that are under the AI umbrella. A few of my favorites are AI-Powered Document Classification, which explains how organizations can boost their automation processes – the widest application of AI in businesses, a Crash Course in Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence, and the podcast This Week in Machine Learning & AI that interviews experts on a variety of topics.  

Leading a Winning Team

Whether selling AI-enabling technologies or any other piece of hardware, software or service, relationships are still important. I work with a global team across three continents and facetime is an integral part of connecting with team members – whether it’s in person or using collaboration tools – to learn about their challenges, sales opportunities and trends happening in their regions that could affect others.

Some of my favorite leadership techniques include: being flexible, especially if you’re working in different time zones and cultural backgrounds; building trust among your team; empowering managers to lead, and open communications.

Also, encourage and find ways your team can be valuable contributors. Diving into another product portfolio offered by your company, researching the competition’s offerings or looking at products and services offered in adjacent industries are all valuable ways team members can contribute.

As a leader, your team should be confident that you are willing to be “hands on” with products, customers and colleagues. Yet, it’s equally important to avoid being a micro-manger. Discern between which call or case you really need to be involved with, or if you were copied on the email as a courtesy!

Measurements of Success

Successful organizations have metrics in place for staff, especially in sales. It’s normally set by the number of deals closed, but other metrics can include entrance into new industries, deals with partners, size of deals vs. volume of deals.

To develop your team, hold one-on-one weekly meetings with managers and “step-level” meetings once a month with their team members. Communicated and advocated correctly, there should not be a perception that anyone is stepping on a manager’s toes.

Ensure ongoing success and employee retention by investing in continued education. This should include internal training on products and technology, such as AI, but also industry-specific conferences, advanced degrees or certification courses, and leadership training for yourself and your team.

Paula Sanders is vice president of global customer enablement at ABBYY, a global provider of content IQ solutions and services. Paula has been working in the technology field for 30 years and leads sales and marketing teams across the US, UK, Europe and currently expanding into Asia.