According to a Harvard Business Review study, it’s likely that 85% of customer interactions with businesses won’t involve humans on the other end by 2020. Thanks to mobile and the web, customer self-service is already commonplace in many industries. Thanks to the emergence of automation and artificial intelligence, consumers have numerous options available when they want to communicate with businesses.
Companies that acquire these new technologies experience a host of possibilities, particularly when it comes to customer retention and sales. Sales teams that use AI have already reported a 50% increase in leads and a 60% reduction in costs. Those figures should make any business sit up and take notice.
By identifying purchasing trends and making smart predictions, AI can help sales teams build better, more granular campaigns and optimize processes so salespeople can focus on big-picture thinking. AI is no longer a technology reserved only for tech-forward companies — anyone willing to put in the work can use it.
Put AI Into Action
Given the right data, AI can transform how sales teams interact with customers. It can take information (e.g., past purchases, location info, or demographic data) and turn it into real-time predictions. This information allows salespeople to spend more time building meaningful connections and relationships.
Depending on the industry, the cost and learning curve associated with AI can discourage executives from investing in it — especially in a healthy economy. Leaders would rather play it safe than rock the boat, even if an investment is likely to offer a more significant long-term return.
Most AI products are not out-of-the-box solutions; they require a certain amount of customization to be effective. While this process requires plenty of time and resources, the results tend to speak for themselves.
Many businesses already have access to the sales data that AI solutions need. Datasets from marketing campaigns, successful meetings, and closed deals can all be put to use with the right tools. If companies are willing to commit, they’ll find the rewards to be well worth the effort.
Let AI and Sales Join Forces
Buying an AI solution and waiting for it to make an impact isn’t enough. To successfully implement AI into sales, take these three steps:
1. Don’t just wing it.In an HBR study, 47% of C-suite leaders say that integrating machine learning into existing processes is difficult. That’s because AI isn’t something you can just add to your existing operations.
Before you try to implement AI, outline a strategic process and then manually test to see whether it works as you intended. Once you have an operational model, you can create AI automation that will continue to learn and improve with your sales department.
2. Make sure your data’s legit. Seventy-six percent of executives surveyed as part of a PricewaterhouseCoopers study worry that AI will yield poor transparency and potential bias. AI is only as effective as the data it uses, so you’ll want to ensure that every piece of data your team has about leads is accurate. That way, your AI solution will be fueled by reliable information.
Data integrity is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation, however. As more data is fed into an AI solution, it becomes increasingly likely that bad data will sneak in. Perform routine checks on the insights your AI is giving you, updating your data frequently to make sure you’re still getting optimal results.
3. Don’t rush. In the telecommunication, tech, and media industries, 72% of companies expect AI to be a valuable asset over the next five years. That doesn’t mean you need to get your AI play working by yesterday, though. Instead, it means you should start now to give yourself enough runway to do it right.
It’s going to take time to train AI models, and not everything will work the first time you try it. Instead of hoping for a complete product in a short time frame, set benchmarks for AI-sales incorporation to measure success along the way.
AI is going to be an integral part of nearly every industry in the near future. When used correctly, it’s an invaluable asset for any sales department looking for polished insights and optimized processes.