We recently started exploring the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have on selling for the future. In many instances, AI is already being used to take the tedium out of selling—and it’s just getting started.
The Tsunami of AI
I liken AI to a tsunami. When a tsunami first starts out, it’s like a ripple on the water. It’s radiating energy, but the ocean is so deep that it’s hardly noticeable. Only when it gets closer to the shore do you see the waves start to rise up. When that happens, you want to be riding on top of that wave, taking advantage of all that power and energy. If you happen to be the person watching the wave come ashore, you’re too late. It will crush you.
Don’t be crushed by the coming transformation in the sales industry. As I look into the future of selling there are four areas sales organizations must invest in AI to drive success; reducing tedium in sales, promoting optimizing sales execution, assessing sales professional and sales manager talent, and continually educating sales teams on how to co-create with customers, if we are going to effectively leverage the power of the AI tsunami.
Last week, we discussed sales tedium. This week, let’s take a look at how organizations must take advantage of AI to increase how effectively they execute each step in the sales process.
Optimizing Sales Execution
If I had to pick one chart from the 100+ metrics we collected as part of CSO Insights 2017 World-Class Sales Practices study that every sales executive should ponder, it would be the following:
Take a moment to reflect on this. The forecast is something sales creates based on its best judgement of what deals could/should close. Remember, this is not looking at the whole pipeline, but rather at opportunities that have progressed far enough through the sale process that salespeople and their managers move to them into the “commit” column. We see the average win rate from this year’s study came in at 47.3 percent. To put that into prospective, the odds of winning on a pass bet at the craps tables in Vegas are 49.3 percent!
Clearly, we have a sales execution problem, so what do we do about it? Drum roll please… Turn to AI, but this time to increase sales effectiveness. Again, what I am going to describe can be done by AI solutions today.
Zeroing in on Prime Opportunities
AI can start to improve sales execution by helping sales people target opportunities where the odds of closing are higher from the very beginning. It does this by analyzing internal and external data sources comparing a new opportunity to past deals resulting in wins, losses and no decisions. AI can then provide the sales team with an assessment of the likelihood that the opportunity will end up in the win column, along with insights into how to increase the odds for success.
As salespeople then pursue higher probability deals, AI will assist them in doing a comprehensive needs analysis, develop value messaging for all key stakeholders in the decision process, build a comprehensive proposal and business case, etc. And at each stage in the process, AI will be analyzing the activities of both buyers and sellers to ensure sales professionals are correctly executing the sales process and that buyers are truly engaged in the buying process.
While AI won’t ensure you win all your forecast deals, consider what the impact would be on the revenue performance if your win rate increased 5, 10 or 15 percent (and what that would in turn do to your company’s stock price).
The thing to remember about AI is that over time it gets better at doing the things you want it to do, which means that it will become an integral part of the sales process. But we need to consider the ramifications this will have on the people who make up our sales teams, which we will explore in part thee of this four part blog series.
Learn how to prepare for the future of sales. Check out our web resources and exclusive content, attend one of Miller Heiman Group’s upcoming Future of Sales Revenue Tour events, or listen to the webinar, What Does the Future of Sales Look Like?