Getting its foot-in-the-door
Salespeople are a different kettle of fish altogether when compared to your more conventional variety of office worker. They don’t like to be sitting in the office—they want to be out there and doing stuff—they’re the ones that sit in the front car of the roller coaster if they can ever force themselves to take some time away from their jobs. They’re the former class-presidents, junior civic leaders—the ones that walk right up to someone they don’t know, stick out their hand and say “Howdy, I’m Mike (or Jill). Isn’t it a great day today?”
They are the top one-on-one people in the world, always looking for ways to make things happen, to develop new relationships, to identify opportunities. Rare is the salesperson that will willingly sit at a desk when they could be at a meeting with a new client, bringing home a big order, or luring a client away from a competitor by providing a service, product, or opportunity that no one has thought to package or offer in that way before.
These are the folks that desperately need Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline their jobs and get rid of the mindless, soul-sapping drudgework of filing reports, reading e-mails, and sorting good leads from bad or pointless ones. Feeding data into the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system just steals time where they could be on the phone with a client, chasing down their next deal, or getting that contract signed so they can make Salesperson of the Month.
What It Is Like
If you have never felt the urge to be in Sales or Marketing, the closest analogy might be a championship racehorse that spends all day in a stall, eating and pooping, but never getting to run. Look at this horse who was so excited to be competing that when her rider fell off, she just kept going, completing the course over-and-over again…
AIs Learn and Never Get Bored
Looking at incoming e-mails, a human can build an opportunity in their mind. “This one could go somewhere,” they might think, or “This one is a complete waste of time”…
An AI, looking at the same e-mail, with a huge database at its disposal, can shake out all sorts of information points within a given e-mail. The company might have a history of ordering, or changing suppliers frequently (or sniffing around and failing to order); of using your product (or leveraging offers from competitors to get their regular supplier to offer discounts). The AI’s “current news” database would know that the company is financially strapped and can’t afford to place an order. It would know a company’s credit history, and whether they don’t pay promptly, or even default.
The AI would sort each piece of communication instantly into Good, Possible, or Pointless (this is the modern form of Predictive Lead Scoring, but adding incredible speed by eliminating the human factor). The salesperson wouldn’t have to touch the “Pointless” pile as that would be answered by the AI with a polite message. It might even respond in such a way as to move them to the Possible-list.
For the Possible leads, the AI could provide details for the salesperson and ready-made strategies based on what that client has responded to before. This evolves by understanding an elaborate history of interactions and how this class of customer (or one specific customer) has done business in the past.
Threats to Distribution
It would also understand world weather, threats to crops, raw materials, civil strife, or anything that could interfere with your Supply Chain. By knowing what threats existed, it could have strategies in place to alter production, change suppliers, or re-route goods.
Following trends, it could predict which product was going to be “hot” this season, regardless of whether it was clothing or industrial supplies. Moreover, via a marketing phase, it could then advertise the items to likely customers early enough to make sure that the sales matched the predictions. This pre-knowledge allows early ordering for your raw materials, to make sure your priority is established over companies that aren’t as proactive as you.
Customers will feel more valued, too, when receiving messages from an AI, though that may seem counterintuitive. In written form, modern AIs are quite competent to emulate a human being, so the ease with which customized and personalized communications can be crafted lets us develop much deeper relationships. You’ve already experienced this with many sports summaries online, which are now often “built” by AIs.
The AI will isolate an important event from each game, for example, “Player #00 Defensive Tackle picked up a fumble and ran it in 80 yards for a touchdown” and print out a mini-summary of the game. No person wrote that, and you never recognized it as an AI. Nuanced ChatBot conversations are starting to appear now, and actual voice communications are surprisingly close to being realized.
It is popular now to order custom-made articles (e.g., running shoes) online, in your precise size, support preferences, and colors, and this trend is growing. AIs can tell you if a particular one-off (single production unit) will be profitable, or a loss. It can even coordinate multiple one-offs on a single production line to minimize interference with other “continuous” processes.
“Order today, and your brand new, customized [item] will be delivered on Friday.” What an incredible marketing tool!
Overseeing Sales & Marketing
A salesperson has to learn to forecast their sales for a monthly (or weekly, or daily) report, which is a very complex task. Imagine how difficult it is for the Sales Manager to Forecast for the entire team.
All of these tasks can be automated with an AI system. How useful would it be to have a constantly evolving report that could be consulted at any time? If problems are developing you would know right then. It wouldn’t fester and worsen with the company pouring good money after bad until the monthly or quarterly report came out weeks later, finally revealing the difficulty.
We have to embrace the idea that, clever as people are, AIs excel at spotting nearly invisible trends long before a human would notice them. It is the closest thing we have to seeing the future—of knowing what is going to happen before it occurs.
Telephone Call Analysis by AI
To thrill marketers and salespeople that spend a lot of time on the phone, AI programs like Chorus can reduce a 60-minute phone call to a five-minute analysis showing where the good points were that resulted in positive feedback, and where the conversation went-off-the-rails.
Similarly, TalkIQ analyzes phone calls in real time, noting actual words, as well as subtext or “feelings.” It then goes on to predict the actual outcome of the call, and offer suggestions during the call to help you get it back on track.
Customer-centric advertising campaigns provide customized information and targeted ads. In one U.S.-based case, an AI generated outreach program started with just a few salespeople working with it experimentally. Though some might label it expensive, it has been generating $20 for each $1 invested by identifying “hot” leads effectively.
The AI itself has been showing 99% efficiency at interpreting lead’s requests and doing seamless handoffs to salespeople. For the tiny portion it cannot interpret, it directs them to the Sales Manager for assessment.
What started as an experiment for 20 salespeople now has the full herd of 1,300 folks clamoring to be allowed to join the program. The success has been stunning.
Automated Free Samples
Dealing with thousands of users per month visiting a website for a free trial, who aren’t paying anything for the privilege, requires a system that can respond to help requests quickly and efficiently, but at minimal cost.
Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) can be an effective way to deal with support for all these leads. It takes the load off of your servers and puts it in a high-speed commercial access center. The entire process is seamless, and remote, and doesn’t interfere with your day to day operations, thus freeing up more people to nail down those sales. AIaaS can support 50 users or 100,000 users with no perceptible impact, except happy customers.
AI is more than AI
Something important to keep in mind is that AI is a machine program responding like a human, but it requires Machine Learning (ML) to support it so that it can expand its ability to respond in an appropriate manner. ML runs in a computer space called a Neural Net, which is software that behaves like a human brain (albeit it with far few interconnections than our brains, but compensating with thousands of times the speed).
When you hear “Apples” and “Cinnamon” you may think “pie” in response, depending on your upbringing. No doubt that association, along with a thousand others numbered according to probability, occurs to the AI-ML combination, but it will (through experience) figure out which answer is most often considered “correct” for a given stimulus.
Left to its own devices, it would figure out a problem, but ML systems can analyze records of human decisions (e.g., accounting entries, the evolution of a text document, live sales calls, or continuous video) very quickly. Watching worker-choices recorded over months (in just a few minutes) lets it develop insights about what is “right” for a given situation. Even the outliers would not slip past it, say of a hacker having the system write them a compensatory check of $100,000 because they were “on hold” for 30 minutes.
There are those who still doubt the usefulness of AI because we haven’t made sufficient effort to demonstrate its functionality. We must show them that far from eliminating their jobs, AI simplifies their job by removing the drudgework and lets them respond creatively to new challenges. It gives them more time to do what they love to do best.
When the system provides them with an actionable insight about their customer they can respond instantly. They can get the job done and move on to the next task. The increase in efficiency is its reward for a commission salesperson or marketer!
The feedback from such a system can show people where they are spending too much time for too little reward. If your particular deal isn’t progressing, the AI can provide useful customer-pleasing suggestions to get it back on track.
Everything about Sales and Marketing will be easier with AI and ML. It will make your life easier, increase your results, and ultimately generate more income.
The Borg characters from Star Trek frequently offered some potentially helpful advice: “Resistance is futile”… Maybe it is time to take that to heart!
The truth is that you now need AI just to stay competitive, let alone to excel. If you’re late-to-the-party, we would be more than happy to advise how to get up to speed. Please feel free to start a conversation with us here. Our plug and play platform is the ideal tool for end-to-end implementation of AI in your business. We’ll be there for the whole journey, not just a quick sale!
We look forward to hearing from you!