I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
While it is true that most organizations have a few sales reps who have achieved “superstar” status, these rare breeds are often the exception rather thanthe rule. Successful salespeople are true enigmas, leaving peers and executive management striving to figure out their “secret sauce” to sniffing out opportunities, creating trust, balancing conflicts, imparting value and ultimately closing deals in a seamless fashion. And while superstars do in fact exist in almost every organization, the hard truth is that most salespeople spend too much of their time unproductively to achieve this kind of status.
According to Kapost, 65 percent of sales reps say they cannot find content to send to prospects. Further, 13 hours each week is spent looking for and creating marketing collateral, according to EMI Industry Intelligence Report, adding up to almost one month per year of unproductive work! It’s no wonder that CSO Insights found that sales reps spend only 37 percent of their time selling and Sirius Decisions found that 65 percent say the top business issue for sales is spending too much time on non-sales activities.
So how can organizations alleviate the busy work that ties up their sales teams and empower them to deliver immediate value to close more deals and drive greater sales success? And, is there a way to share the knowledge of those sales superstars across the team to help the collective group be more effective?
The Role of Artificial Intelligence
This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Increasingly, businesses are starting to incorporate AI and machine learning to help improve various business functions because they help automate manual (and timely) processes – freeing up humans to be more effective, efficient and productive. A recent survey from Infosyssupports this. It found that two-thirds of respondents believe that AI will “bring out the best in their organization’s people.” The reported benefits of AI that respondents have experienced so far include automating processes and tasks (46 percent), cost savings (44 percent), increasing productivity (44 percent), and increasing revenue (39 percent).
While AI systems weren’t initially optimized to work for sales – that is changing. Now, AI is helping sales reps by creating step-by-step guided selling, using the power of intelligence to improve how a sales person works. By combining behavioral data with key indicators of market success (sales data) and a way to understand the context of business content, organizations can help maximize a sales person’s time. Here are just a few of the impactful ways this powerful combo can help turn busy work into productivity that moves the needle:
Automation of Manual Tasks
Automating manual tasks is the cornerstone of efficiency. By cutting down on time spent on redundant or administrative tasks, salespeople can focus on cultivating relationships and uncovering new leads. For instance, today’s technology allows digital data entry into smart forms that are available to mobile users and connected to backend systems, eliminating time-consuming paper-based forms while increasing overall productivity. This content, in turn, can be fed into an AI-powered solution to help inform the self-learning, matching algorithms. The result: automatic content recommendations provided to sales people based on factors like where they are in the sales cycle, their role or what their peers are using – and a significant reduction in time spent hunting for the right content.
Replicate Success of Others
While it may be impossible to capture all that makes a sales superstar tick, AI technology can certainly help narrow the gap. By measuring every user action and learning from this process, an AI-powered solution can identify what works and what doesn’t for engaging prospects and closing deals. From this, AI solutions can make real-time content recommendations for a sales rep, tailored to where they are in the sales cycle, and greatly improve their chances for a successful outcome. For instance,if the top 10 percent of salespeople use a particular presentation during their initial meetings, the system would push that content to other sales people as they were headed towards their own intro session with a prospect. By having a means to better measure and learn from the successes and failures of other sales people across the team, organizations can ultimately improve outcomes.
Create real-world, step-by-step guided selling
By taking input data, AI technology helps guide the sales person through the entire sales cycle, suggesting the best next steps, activities and assets based on that information. Acting as a virtual mentor, this technology guides a sales person and recommends the right content to be successful, while also allowing them to benefit from the best reps’ experience and wisdom, and alerting them to missing information or other issues that could put a deal in jeopardy.
Organizations have a wealth of content to enable sales people to be more successful, but that alone is not the answer. By combining content with AI, organizations can empower their sales teams to become smarter and more efficient, unlocking some of the mystery behind the most successful reps and freeing up their time so they can focus on what matters – showing up prepared, establishing trust, closing deals and satisfying customers.
David Keane is co-founder and CEO of Bigtincan, an AI-powered sales enablement platform that empowers sales and service teams, shorten sales cycles, and wins more deals.