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How the power of AI is revolutionising the sales game

artificial intelligence
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek)

As the world of sales continues to evolve, so has the number of sales tactics and technologies to help teams close new customers and retain current ones. Many of the old school sales tips and tricks no longer work and can create confusion. Like a game of football, a strong sales operation isn’t about using a lot of tools and hope they will somehow work together; it’s about using each tool to join the dots to hit the goal: turn the prospect into a customer.

And this starts with the most basic tip in the book: focusing on people.

Stop being a striker; start acting like a coach

Being good a seizing opportunities and striking goals is important – but the ability to build long-term relationships and growing your customers is what differentiates a good salesperson from a great one.

To be a good salesperson, what you really need is a coach’s mentality: be good at listening to your prospects, create a sense of trust, and maintain a relationship with your customers after the sale. Afterall, building positive working relationships is not only key to closing a new deal, but also to retaining current customers for the long-haul, and developing trust that can lead to new referrals.

Treat your prospects and your customers like your supporters: like any football fan, happy customers will come back to the game time and time again and talk about their favorite team to their friends. They first come in for the goals, but the reason they stay loyal is because they love the teamwork and they feel the club responds to their needs. This is a coach’s legacy – and how you can turn a first-time customer into a long-term advocate.

AI, the salesperson’s VAR

Data is crucial in predicting the right formation on a football pitch, and this is no different for your sales operation. The only difference is that instead of VAR, your best tool is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI has been embedded in our lives for years across a range of industries including medicine and security to name a few – and now it’s spawning a generation of super salespeople. Gone are the days of having a cold call, with an automated recorded message. Now, even the most junior salesperson can convince a prospect to buy products and services like someone who’s been on the job for ten years – thanks to AI.

In an industry that can no longer rely on tried and tested methods like events, lunches and visits to the prospect’s office, the industry needed to find ways to do business virtually – something the sector wasn’t quite familiar with and needed new solutions for. Enter sales tech, a data-driven, AI-powered approach to sales that helps sellers learn more about potential buyers, build trust, ensure that conversations are more meaningful and that they keep better track of their relationship with the prospect. In short, sales tech has radically changed the sales game.

Almighty data

In a world powered by sales tech, automation isn’t just about workflows. AI and its subfields, such as Machine Learning, are helping sales teams to gain visibility and control over their pipeline, productivity, and performance.

In the pandemic economy, people spend less time looking for the value and the justification, and instead focus on the emotional aspect of a purchase. This can easily lead to misunderstandings between the prospective buyer’s intent and the seller’s needs. By using AI and machine learning, salespeople can more easily identify prospects that are genuinely interested and stop contacting those that aren’t.

Clever systems can even coach the seller through your objections by analyzing the prospect’s language and facial features, pulling out relevant information to answer their questions and keeping track of their responses to build an accurate profile for the seller.

Additionally, the pandemic has shown that many jobs can be done well, regardless of where workers are physically based. For business dealings, this has removed a layer of complication many will be familiar with: travel. And whilst working remotely, sales deals that are there to be done are moving faster than ever before. Yet, without the right tools, this can lead to a revival of the little black book, where information about prospects is only available to the salesperson dealing with them – and leaving sales leaders guessing how healthy their pipeline really is.

With sales teams under pressure to meet their numbers in a recession, sales leaders also need to capitalize on data to analyze opportunities that will make sales happen faster and to replicate success across the entire salesforce. This is where artificial intelligence comes in. It provides managers with the right data to analyze opportunities, make sales happen faster, and increases overall productivity.

Enhancing real-time work

Most often, sales teams receive poorly qualified leads to turn into prospects, leading to a discovery phase that is both long and arduous –which results in cold calls that don’t necessarily address the prospect’s actual challenge. To avoid this, businesses need a discovery call checklist that will increase the chances of sales conversions. Concurrently, content on best practices within the prospect’s industry helps sales teams to understand what they need to lead with and to focus on, in order to appeal to the prospect’s best interests. This shows empathy and expertise from the salesperson and puts them in a better position to engage with the prospect in a meaningful way to secure their interest long-term.

Used resourcefully, AI can improve the work of the salesperson qualifying the lead by bringing relevant information about the prospect in real-time. This permits salespeople to drive more meaningful conversations and build stronger relationships with prospects and customers.

Additionally, salespeople want to engage prospects at the right time and in the right way— they don’t want to log activities, go back and forth to schedule a time to meet, or update records with new contact information. Machine learning can take care of all those mundane, yet necessary task for reps. Algorithms can extract, process, and learn from massive amounts of sales data. Models can analyze sales activities and customer data at scale, generate deeper insights, and even act on those insights automatically.

Building relationship bridges

To reiterate, sales is often thought of as a relationship business. Relationships are crucial and without them, customers can often feel like nothing more than a number to the salesperson. To develop a real relationship, salespeople need to provide a personalized, human approach. Using the data collated by the salesperson alongside predictive analysis, AI/ML can determine the personalized journey to improve the sales representative’s one-on-one connections with customers at scale.

Having said this, it’s simply not enough to just gather sales data and customer information. With AI, it’s possible to take that data and analyze it in order to create more accurate sales objectives that can be updated in real time. And by deploying AI, it’s possible to see how customers feel at an individual level.

AI can even be used as a real-time, personal coach for salespeople on calls with prospects. An efficient AI tool brings together intelligent sales enablement, progressive automation that streamlines tasks, and helps sales reps conduct productive meetings and execute the perfect follow up.

AI for future development

A sales team without AI is an entity without a future. AI already performs most of the heavy lifting for many successful sales teams today. A sales organization that chooses to engage prospects and customers without the insights of machine learning operates with a major disadvantage and misses many opportunities to achieve optimum business results.

Investing in AI is a commitment, but it’s one that will pay off and create significant return on that investment. The advantages of AI are of better sales, improved customer service and reduced churn, both of customers and employees.

AI is a businessman’s best hidden asset – and its high time it became an integral part of the sales mix for companies of all sizes.

Tom Castley, Vice president of Sales, Outreach UK and EMEA

Tom Castley, is the Vice President of Sales, UK and EMEA at Outreach.