It is impossible to ignore Artificial Intelligence. Discussion and debate about AI and Machine Based Learning (MBL) is everywhere you turn at the moment, with software vendors claiming their status as AI-powered, and giants of the tech world forming coalitions to fast-track the development of intelligence technologies.
There is no doubt that the evolution of AI technology for enterprise B2B is set to have a profound impact on the lives of those in commercial teams, but what is it really? And what are the likely ways that it could affect the every-day working practices of B2B professionals both today, and in the longer-term?
Man and Machine Communicating Naturally
Humans interacting directly with software using an intelligent “natural” mechanism. Sounds like something out of science fiction (man and bot communicating and working in unison), but modern AI algorithms are already smart enough and fast enough to recognise word patterns and extract meaning or “intent”. Such AI models built into business applications will transform previously manual tasks in the most intuitive and natural ways – ask a question, get an answer; prompt an action get a response. When humans find a way of interacting with machines suddenly everything gets easier. For commercial teams this means frictionless access to intelligence of greatest value - golden nuggets which will improve understanding of the customer or prospect and their drivers at any given moment, delivered in the most human way possible for swift, empathetic, direct action. In time these AI powered applications may even act as a proxy, communicating with customers directly in human-like ways, answering their questions, delivering content and generating leads.
Predict and Disrupt
As more and more information, opinion and hard-data is generated and held in a myriad of places, the sheer volume and diversity of information can be overwhelming, making keeping up a challenge, let alone predicting future needs. As AI, mathematical modelling, and machine learning technologies collide with “big data” it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of predicting where the customer journey will go next - the actions to be taken that will influence decision making and disrupt the market now, next week, and in the months to come. When we know exactly what to do next we can better predict success and avoid failure, making for more sophisticated sales strategies, campaigns and product/service development. As time goes by and the volume of results data improves precision and predictive capacity, these models will get better still, enabling faster and more accurate predictions of customer needs, pain, market challenges and opportunities, before customers themselves even realise what lies ahead.
Augment real word business practices
In business, information is power. Perhaps more importantly, the right information at the right time is the most powerful kind of all. Using AI techniques, it will be possible to bring together a number of virtual entities (those things that only exist within machines) and to layer them onto real-world activities (such as a meeting, phone-call, live chat or briefing) in order to augment those activities with just the right mix of fact and opinion to make any sales, marketing or customer success professional look awesome. Augment that sales call by throwing in a useful or insightful contextual anecdote at the vital moment; capture and hold the attention of the room by having a constant supply of precise and up-to-the-minute insight about everyone sitting around the table - their sentiments, where they are in the sales cycle, and their expectations. Advances in the performance and accuracy of AI technologies present many new opportunities to augment real world activities with virtual sophistication. The right decision, the right action, the right delivery, to the right people at exactly the right time.
For several years now software-savvy commercial teams have been using prospecting tools and lead-scoring software to help them find and triage leads more effectively. The more sophisticated have been combining information from their commercial experiences and CRM repositories (static firmographics) with active insight such as announcements, blog posts, social media, customer comments, product launches, financial results and so on. But, of course, the challenge is that much of it may be irrelevant, and no one has the time to read it all and extract the real nuggets anyway. And by the time you have read it, it will probably be out of date! Processing, analysing and feeding these big-data sets into AI models will seamlessly augment static cold data and fact, with real-time insight and real world events and experiences to produce much more targeted and accurate relative-measures and triggers that can be used to perfect segmentation, lead generation and execution.
Machine joins the team
The most accurate and timely insight in the world is only useful if you can action it. In today’s ever resource-squeezed environments, it’s the timely execution part that sometimes lets the side down. As the sophistication, performance and integration levels of AI technology increase over time it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for automation, by making the machine and active participant in the team. Imagine a world where you have a virtual assistant, one that doesn’t just capture and crunch data, but communicates with you, directs activity and undertakes manual tasks on your behalf just as you yourself would, leaving you free to undertake more strategic decision making and human-touch relationship building tasks with greater clarity and a more proactive and holistic customer experience approach. No touch point left unturned, no engagement opportunity missed.
Companies that invest in early forms of AI now will no doubt emerge as the leaders in their field, as they experience unrivalled improvements in the way their sales, commercial and customer-facing teams operate. Artesian Solutions has been undertaking a significant Artificial Intelligence R&D programme based on an incredibly rich understanding of the enterprise B2B landscape through the eyes of some of the biggest and most influential companies in the world. We have been working closely with them to understand what their future looks like, including where the biggest gains can be made, how work processes can be automated, and how the very nature of decision making can be reimagined to keep them one step ahead as the enterprise B2B AI race heats up.
Steve Borthwick, CTO Artesian Solutions
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