Special thanks to SalesLoft’s Lead Data Scientist, Roi Ceren, for lending his brilliance to this piece.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the unquestionable technological advancement of our era. Many believe that AI will replace humans to expedite transactional exchanges. At first glance, this may appear as contradictory to the nature of sales, which is sellers serving their buyers through an authentic, genuine connection. That’s why it is so important to clarify our perspective on AI in sales.
While many may believe AI will eliminate jobs, the advent of AI is more likely to change how we work, not who is working. For example, AI increases the effectiveness of diagnosis in the medical field, it moves us around the world in planes and cars, and it even guides us in finding goods we’d like to purchase to solve our daily problems. It goes without saying that AI will invariably change the way that we work, especially in the field of sales engagement which grows more technical every day.
The current role of AI in sales engagement is automating the mundane. SalesLoft’s vision of the future includes creating solutions that inform users about important and relevant customer insights and recommend activities that are the highest and best use of their time. It will give salespeople more time to spend establishing a real connection with their prospects. In short, anyone driving revenue will have more time to spend on what matters – the human aspect that is so important to sales.
Defining AI and ML
Let’s back up and establish some common language. AI has become a buzzword that’s often confused with machine learning. We think it’s important to have clarity around what AI is and what it is not. Here’s how we define each.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Computer systems that receive input from the environment, interpret the input, and output behaviors and actions that help achieve a particular goal or objective.
Translation: AI mimics human thinking in some way.
Machine Learning (ML): Science of getting computers to adapt their behavior over time based on experience, and improve their learning over time, by feeding them data and information in the form of observations and real-world interactions. A subset of AI.
Translation: ML uses statistics combined with learning to mimic human thinking.
We’ve Come a Long Way
Now that we’ve established these definitions, let’s explore the information age that completely upended the nature of sales.
Building, maintaining, and executing sales interactions with a network of potential buyers has been at the core of the sales profession since the beginning of time. Software solutions began surfacing in the 80s that transformed the first two aspects of the sales process: building and maintaining contacts. Modern platforms like Salesforce provided indispensable support for the organization of massive quantities of sales contacts. We’ve come a long way since the old school days of Rolodexes overflowing with contacts!
Now, with advanced systems of record at our disposal, a way to structure engagement is a must for anyone responsible for revenue generation. Having a method to track prospects and customers through the sales funnel is table stakes. Technologies like SalesLoft allow you to not only curate prospects but also maintain consistent (but always pleasantly persistent) contact with them. A system of execution is a not-so-secret weapon for dramatically increasing revenue.
Spoiler alert: the potential for salespeople to juggle a large number of buyers with relative ease has created an unintended pain point. Marketing automation, outdated mass email practices, and powerful sales technology added too much noise. Buyers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sales communications.
The Power of Smart Selling
The human connection has the potential to drive exceptional buying experiences. One of the keys to unlocking high engagement and optimal revenue generation is reducing noise for the buyer. Buyers deserve sincere, honest connections. With ML, a powerful subset of AI, algorithms exist that can be used to tackle many administrative tasks, leaving more time for the human side of sales.
But ML goes beyond administrative tasks and data validation. By analyzing a salesperson’s behavior and learning context, ML can also provide hyper-specific sales tactics, such as identifying which communication steps a seller should use and what information is most pertinent to advancing a deal. The ability to both reduce administrative tasks and more quickly recognize contextual, high-value recommendations allow a seller to focus on what only they can do – develop meaningful connections. It allows them to establish empathy and trust, and to genuinely work with buyers to help solve their challenges.
Both AI and ML in sales engagement are an assistant, serving to filter out the mechanical requirements of selling and empowering sellers to add more value. Previously, sellers had to lean on automated, generic content to keep up with their massive pool of prospects. Today, we can use new, powerful ML techniques to free up even more time and identify high-need potential buyers with context. Sellers can now focus on crafting their message, establishing personal relationships, solving customer problems and, as a result, maximize their business’ revenue.
Sales is on the cusp of another dramatic shift. AI will dramatically change how sellers do business. AI will soon automate sales workflows, automatically resolve A/B tests, and detect when new variants will improve engagement. It will even indicate who to reach out to and how, predicting which prospects are most likely to engage, identify their buying intent, and recommending which touches to execute and when.
As the best designed and largest data source in the world for behavioral sales data, SalesLoft will continue innovating to make a huge impact on the success of revenue professionals and improve the buying experiences of their customers. Look out for those announcements on the Product Blog!
Sales engagement with SalesLoft helps the world’s best sales organizations deliver value and create trust by connecting with their customers in an authentic, human way, at scale. Learn more about how we do this in our Sales Engagement Buyer’s Guide.