The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has caused a seismic shift in the world of sales. No longer confined to the realm of sci-fi movies, AI has emerged as a game-changer in the sales profession.
Sandler has been driving the conversation around sales intelligence this year to provide insights into how AI can revolutionize sales techniques, boost efficiency, and reshape the future. This conversation is an important one, because frankly, the old paper roadmaps for sales success are out of date. When it comes to success, there is a new GPS for sales professionals, one built for salespeople who are prepared to navigate a new sales landscape. Whether we like it or not, that GPS runs on AI.
In a recent webinar with sales and AI experts, Jody Williamson and Jordan Ledwein, I was privileged to take part in a deep discussion about the non-negotiable importance, in the age of AI, of redefining your sales process and reimagining the buying experience you want for your clients. Buyers are clearly more educated than ever – fortunately, sellers can be as well.
We can now research and review data on each individual buyer and customize our pitch to the person’s specific pain points, not just the likely pain points of the industry persona. We can automate laborious tasks for our sales team and automatically update the CRM with critical data and stage information. Finally, we can incorporate AI and machine learning into our own personal selling process for more accurate deal analytics, reporting, and sales forecasting.
Personalize the Buyer’s Journey… Authentically
At Sandler, we have been focused on customizing sales presentations for decades. Classic Sandler best practices include presenting only to the pains the buyers are experiencing, showing only solutions within their stated investment parameters, and demonstrating a unique selling proposition that aligns seamlessly with their decision-making process. We have long believed that salespeople should focus more on building stronger relationships with their prospects, having the best conversations possible, and talking only to the most qualified and eager buyers.
Now, with help of AI, we can use tools like Humantic AI and HubSpot to personalize our sales and marketing efforts directly to each buyer’s personality, pains, and position in the buyer’s journey.
More recently, we have been discussing the ethical and moral aspects of AI in sales, and the importance of leveraging emotional intelligence and creativity from human sellers in a buying environment where authentic emotion and creativity are harder and harder to come by. In the age of AI automation, businesses can (and do) SPAM customers relentlessly, and many have chatbots designed to act as a first “line of defense” against web site visitors with support issues. Clearly, these realities leave an opening for human salespeople who are willing to engage authentically with human buyers!
We believe that top companies will continue to concentrate on fostering trust and emotional connection with their customers.
If everyone has AI tools, the sales teams with the best creativity, empathy, communication, listening, and other human soft skills will continue to separate themselves from the pack.
Remove Roadblocks for Salespeople
On average, sales professionals spend just around 32% of their time actually selling. The rest dissipates in non-revenue generating activities.
One of the key discussions for any sales team is how AI can automate various sales tasks.
Tools like call recordings, CRM updating, data enrichment, lead scoring, and call summaries save sellers a ton of busy work. There are AI-driven presentation builders, email writers, and virtual communication tools that can help sellers engage with, communicate, collaborate, and build consensus with buyers faster than ever before. Just make sure the AI tools you select actually remove roadblocks for professional sellers, as opposed to replacing old roadblocks with bigger new ones, for instance by making data entry tasks more cumbersome or more confusing. When in doubt, test-drive the tool yourself before you ask a member of your sales team to use it daily!
Smarter Sales Forecasts
AI tools can now help in forecasting sales much more accurately than in the past. Sandler’s Deal IQ, for instance, can analyze customer engagement data, spotlight the most valuable leads, and identify the deals that are most likely to close. A sales leader who does not take advantage of that information puts the team and the organization at a competitive disadvantage.
Let’s face it. The role of sales manager now requires an acute understanding of market trends, pipeline metrics, consumer behavior, and technological advancements. That means this role now requires the use of AI tools. Of course, these tools must be used responsibly. The same, however, can be said of any sales tool in the sales leader’s arsenal.
Bottom line: We must continue to learn how to guide our team toward success without compromising organizational integrity.
We can do that. And the alternative, lagging behind in game-changing technology, could result in the loss of customers to more tech-savvy competitors.
The Road Ahead -- What Are the Future Implications of AI in Sales?
For one thing, companies will have to commit to reskill and upskill their teams if they are serious about competing. Top performers in sales and leadership will need training and support to ensure that AI is used effectively and ethically.
On top of that, our team members will also need to hone their soft skills. Things like bonding and rapport, one-on-one communication, and coalition building are more important in the AI era. Many sales positions are disappearing with advances in AI – and those that remain will demand superior one-on-one and team engagement skills, expressed both in real time and via digital communication platforms. Those who are now succeeding in sales are not the people who are the best order-takers… they're the people who are the most effective communicators!
Our teams must combine mastery of AI tools with the mastery of human dynamics.
The use of AI in sales is no longer a speculative “what if” topic – it’s an undeniable present-tense reality that is revolutionizing, and will continue to revolutionize, the sales landscape. The future, in other words, is already here. Are you and your team ready?