How artificial intelligence can make sales more human
Since the introduction of automation and artificial intelligence, many sellers have worried that new technology could make human sales teams irrelevant. But new research shows otherwise. From 2018 to 2020, artificial intelligence adoption among sales teams grew by 76%, according to Salesforce’s biannual State of Sales report. Yet, in March 2021, “salesperson” was the second most in-demand role based on the number of job posts on LinkedIn.
That these two statistics exist in alignment may come as a surprise. How can the sales industry need more artificial intelligence and more humans at the same time?
The answer is that many fears about the effect of automation and artificial intelligence on the sales workforce are proving false. Salespeople aren’t being replaced by automation — they are being empowered and supported by it.
Without automation, digital sales expectations are unrealistic
Salesforce also reports that many sales representatives are so busy with data entry and paperwork that they only spend one-third of their time selling. But expectations have not lowered so that they only need to meet one-third of their quotas. This leads to a frenetic pace as representatives try to do it all: They research and qualify leads, need to be fully present for important sales calls, coordinate with marketing and other cross-functional teams, help prepare the sales forecast — and are still expected to update CRM at the end of the day. Is it any wonder that in a 2020 survey by Sales Insights Lab, only 17.6% of sales professionals rated their job satisfaction as “outstanding”?
What’s worse, this hectic environment only compounds for salespeople and worsens their reputation. When salespeople have so much to do, what suffers is their ability to be intentional and thoughtful about a customized sales process that speaks to the needs of each potential customer. Instead, sellers must resort to quantity over quality, may get details wrong, and try the same tired pitches and presentations over and over because they lack time to prepare and innovate. The most unfortunate part is that this vicious cycle is a major contributor to the lack of job satisfaction among sales professionals. Salespeople who spend four or more hours a day committed to selling and sales-related activities are significantly happier at work (and perform better — (81.6% of top performers spend 4 hours or more on sales-related activities).
In short, a lack of automation makes the sales process more “robotic” than artificial intelligence ever will.
Artificial intelligence lets humans refocus their energy into sales
Leveraging automation to give sales teams the time and attention necessary to focus on customized sales approaches isn’t just important for talent retention. It’s also the only way to align with the expectations of today’s customers. Now 73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, not use the sales process as a discovery interview. And 75% of customers expect that companies will use technology to improve the customer experience.
“The traditional way of working in sales is process-driven and activity-based. That means operating from a ‘more is more’ mindset and focusing on creating one consistent approach used for every buyer. But buyers now expect sellers to know their preferences,” said Stephen Messer, co-founder of Collective[i]. “A cookie-cutter approach to sales just won’t cut it. Not to mention that enforcing consistency often comes at the expense of productivity.” Indeed, one report from the National Association of Sales Professionals revealed that almost 65% of sales representatives’ time is spent on operational efforts that have no impact on generating revenue. The majority of this time is spent on activities like messaging colleagues, using sales technology like CRM, and managing spreadsheets.
This is where artificial intelligence and automation can change the game. Many less-advanced AI-lite platforms leverage pattern recognition technology to help sales teams automate their CRM data capture and communicate cross-functionally through virtual collaboration tools. But only one tool on the market leverages prescriptive analytics to enrich CRM data and give sellers next and best actions supported by a growing neural network. By integrating real-time market insights, third-party public data about prospects in the pipeline, and artificial intelligence trained to analyze both market information and historic company data, our platform makes forecasting projections that are more accurate — and more actionable. These innovations go beyond liberating sales teams from tedious busy work to empower them with the insights and advice necessary to bring the human connection back to sales.
Empower your sales team with the support of Collective[i]
Collective[i] is an award-winning end-to-end sales platform. Beginning with Intelligent WriteBackTM to automate CRM capture from different teams across your organization, Collective[i] helps clients both comply with data privacy regulations and create more actionable sales forecasts. Our Intelligent ForecastTM includes updates, recommendations, and risk alerts that let teams act and adapt quickly. Artificial intelligence and machine learning in our dashboard helps share learnings from your top performers and current market trends to guide all sellers’ attention to the most impactful actions they can take at that moment.
We have intentionally designed Collective[i] to drive the best results throughout your organization by meeting all sellers where they are. But first, we’d love to meet you! Explore Collective[i] and contact us to discuss how we can optimize the human experience of selling at your business.Explore Collective[i]