How AI Can Accelerate Sales and Bridge the Marketing Gap

Author: 
Krishnan Venkata

The rapid pace of digital innovation is forcing companies to undertake profound transformation of their entire business strategy and activities. This transformation is permeating all areas of the enterprise – from marketing to sales to product development and even finance and human resources. As part of this transformation, companies are increasingly turning to AI-based solutions that are capable of extracting insights from massive data sets at a previously unthinkable speed and scale.

Amongst the plethora of enterprise AI solutions available, marketing platforms probably come to mind first. AI has promised to transform digital marketing – from creating highly detailed customer profiles to enabling campaigns that are personalized to every individual. However, sales is also an area ripe for innovation when it comes to AI-powered solutions. Not only can AI accelerate and optimize the sales funnel, it can also bridge what’s often an organizational divide between sales and marketing at many enterprises.

Sales and marketing departments are both equally important aspects of a business that can propel a business forward if they work hand-in-hand. While sales drives the bottom line, marketing helps sales find and qualify leads. Historically, analytics in these two domains has provided a static view of the customer, but AI is getting companies closer than ever before to a true 360-view of the customer, which is becoming more and more necessary.

Companies like Amazon and Netflix have become experts at using data on the sales side to make inferences about what products or movies a customer might buy or watch, and then using those same analytics on the marketing side to push the right offer or recommendation to the customer at the right time. In 2012, Sucharita Mulpuru, a Forrester analyst, said Amazon’s conversion to sales of on-site recommendations could be as high as 60% - and these algorithms have only become more sophisticated over the past seven years.

With this in mind, here are several ways AI-based solutions can accelerate the sales cycle and also further integrate the sales and marketing functions through data and analytics:

Identifying the right deals and risks in the sales pipeline

For sales personnel, the task of logging activities can be inconsistent and waste a lot of time that could otherwise be spent on activities that actually generate revenue. A recent study reveals that the continuous input of data into spreadsheets in a CRM system makes up nearly 10% of a sales personnel’s time, which accounts for over half the total time spent in CRM-related tasks. That same study emphasizes the unproductive nature of logging activities, which sales personnel deem as the least valuable out of their responsibilities.

This is where AI can step in to automatically capture all activity data and generate continuous feedback loops in CRM applications. At LatentView’s 11th Analytics Roundtable in New York, centered around Demystifying AI: connecting the dots in the real world, keynote speaker and Forrester Principal Analyst Brandon Purcell reinforced the idea that data -> insights -> action needed to be cyclical. As more data and knowledge of customers is created, AI can add these to the mix of existing information to provide a more accurate view of where the opportunities and risks lie. For example, AI solutions can quickly analyze data to identify patterns in customer behavior (who is the typical buyer, what factors drive them to make purchases, etc.) and better understand the customer decision journey.

Implementing AI solutions that extract actionable insights from a company’s data to provide improved forecasting is extremely valuable to sales professionals because it can point to the right opportunities. As resources are often limited, spending the right amount of time on leads with the potential to provide a higher customer lifetime value (CLV) can maximize sales ROI. Customers with high CLV are critical as the cost to acquire a customer will likely exceed a customer’s initial purchase. However, AI is also providing ways to lower acquisition costs.

Combining sales and  marketing signals for better forecasting

Traditionally, sales professionals have only looked at CRM data to identify opportunities and risks. This approach is reductive because there are signals from other sources such as account records and marketing clouds that the company can integrate with data from CRM apps like Salesforce. Combining sales and marketing signals provides more accurate predictive insight and reduces data blind spots. As qualifying leads and closing deals require more strategic alignment across sales and marketing, there’s an immediate opportunity for AI-powered solutions to bridge this gap.

AI solutions can not only track all the internal data in key business systems across an organization, but also external data, which can provide value to everyone involved in revenue operations. For example, AI-powered solutions for predictive lead scoring can further integrate the sales and marketing functions and provide a more robust foundation for landing the perfect customers by combining all relevant data signals. By integrating data from CRM apps, account records (email, calendar, phone), marketing apps, and also external digital data, AI solutions can ultimately provide more predictable revenue statistics and help sales professionals reach their targets.

Predicting consumer trends for goods with short buying cycles

Being in the know about consumer trends is a responsibility for both sales and marketing professionals - especially for consumer goods with short buying cycles. Marketing and sales can both use AI to pick up on consumer trends and use those insights to fuel innovation, product development, etc. AI can help with trends that are fast-moving and for which there is less time to react to shifting consumer preferences.

By examining digital data across a variety of sources and combining these signals with data from enterprise applications, AI-powered algorithms can predict consumer trends before they emerge and become mainstream, giving businesses the potential to secure a first-mover advantage.

AI-powered solutions have immense potential when it comes to accelerating sales processes and bridging the gap with marketing functions by solving data management issues within organizations. AI solutions can assist in identifying the right deals and risks in the sales pipeline. Marrying sales and marketing with the help of AI can also lead to more informed predictions about consumer trends, which can prime a business for success in other revenue-related operations.

Krishnan Venkata is chief sales officer for the digital analytics firm LatentView Analytics.