How Is AI Changing CRM?

CRM is a great tool, but it often fails to consider the softer side of sales management and the complexities of the sales process. With the aid of predictive models that take all human factors into account, sales leaders gain a more precise picture of the state of their sales force and pipeline, which helps them and their reps understand where to focus their efforts for maximum results.

When a new year begins, it’s sales kick off season in many organizations. This is the perfect opportunity for sales teams to regroup and align around a common goal for 2019. During this time, it’s critical for teams to recognize their highest performing salespeople, which can be a tricky endeavor. So, what approach should sales leaders take to accomplish such a delicate task? Does it make sense for them to rely solely on ranking their team by total bookings per rep?

Let’s look at this scenario:

Bob has a track record of closing the most deals for his organization, but his colleague, Sue, has worked very hard in the past year in what is arguably a more challenging territory than Bob’s. So, who is the star pupil on this sales team? In this case, is quality or quantity more important to the overall performance? Most sales leaders would consult CRM reports, but that is not going to accurately tell them what they need to know. This is where artificial intelligence comes in and saves the day.

CRM is the record keeper of the sales department. It’s what managers use to make decisions on sales forecasts, training, lead scoring, and bonuses. Most CRM solutions provide hundreds of metrics, which forces sales managers to rely heavily on them to gauge sales performance. The question is, are they measuring the right things, or are they cherry-picking the familiar stats and ignoring many key intangibles? Making sense of this challenge is just one area where artificial intelligence and CRM come together.

Prominent CRM players such as Salesforce and Microsoft are investing heavily in AI capabilities as a result. Third-party partner solutions such as Cien are going even further by building out smart AI solutions that use machine learning for understanding the human element of the sales process and not just missed opportunities.

Artificial Intelligence is changing CRM in four major ways:

1. Saving Time

Humans often get tired and miss clues that could be valuable for improving the sales pipeline. Artificial intelligence engines are always on the lookout for relevant information that can be pushed to users in the form of actionable suggestions without the need for time-consuming human analysis.

Computers can think and see more patterns in data faster than the best data scientists out there, which can easily be less obvious or even invisible to humans. AI reduces the need to constantly perform manual updates or check-ins with the CRM by automatically pulling the most relevant information to the forefront. As well as, eliminating the need for sales operation managers to run complex reports.

2. Increasing Lead Visibility

Lead-scoring can help rate the quality of leads, but most sales managers aren’t using complete data when it comes to lead scoring. When machine learning is applied to CRM data, managers can see very precisely the likelihood of closing a lead and the necessary actions to be taken to get there.

AI solutions such as Cien give business leaders more visibility into their sales pipeline by predicting which deals will close and which deals won’t. It can turn activity management on its ear, making it known to managers when they’ve been prioritizing the wrong leads and actions based on previously limited data. Predictive models help determine how important less obvious factors are and the type implications these softer factors have.

3. Making the Workflows Smarter

CRM has significant usability issues. The workflows are often awkward, repetitive, cumbersome and unproductive. Artificial intelligence can vastly improve the CRM workflow by suggesting the activities that will drive the best outcomes and allowing sales departments to incorporate a greater number of data sources more quickly. Not to mention, making CRM easier to set up and maintain.

Cien tracks activities that may have been over or under covered and make daily recommendations to sales managers and reps. For example, a rep might open the app in the morning to see the message, “Compared with your peers, you are spending less time calling your individual accounts” or “You have not connected with Acme Company in more than seven days.”

These suggestions are based on careful analysis of real-time activity and behavior on the part of reps and matched to actions deemed to have a probability for the highest value results.

4. Addressing the Human Elements

The barriers holding back selling are sometimes less obvious and don’t show up in any metrics report. Elements such as customer engagement, an individual rep’s work ethic, mood and the incremental performance per rep are critical to know to gain a true picture of the state of the sales department. With AI, managers can understand how these “softer” elements affect the conditional probability of closing a given lead.

By analyzing a variety of activities, AI can gauge the “team mood” and use it as a factor for decision-making. Sentiment Detection, a unique component of Cien’s AI engine, can analyze communications to determine the state of mind of individual reps and the sales team as a unit, adding a new dimension to the sales managers’ snapshot of the sales pipeline.

Ultimately, artificial intelligence in CRM can help any sales organization improve performance. A one or two percent boost can translate to enormous gains in sales with little capital outlay by reducing customer acquisition costs, raising engagement rates and booting performance rates. This means, fewer sales reps will be needed for the same pipeline coverage.

CRM is a great tool, but it often fails to consider the softer side of sales management and the complexities of the sales process. With the aid of predictive models that take all factors into account, sales leaders gain a more precise picture of the state of their sales force and pipeline, which helps them and their reps understand where to focus their efforts for maximum results. This may help Sue with that sales performance competition as well.

To learn more about the impact of Artificial Intelligence in sales, download Cien’s Global Study on the Future of Sales.

 


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