3 Ways Sales Managers Can Use AI to Increase Sales Effectiveness
That’s not a doomsday prediction, by the way. In 2011, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85 percent of all customer interactions with the enterprise won’t involve another human. Employees are following suit. Today’s artificial intelligence software is capable of helping employees from both a people standpoint and a hard data standpoint, marrying culture with productivity. Challenges, like absorbing data points and navigating cognitive bias, give way before AI, allowing you to get more done and increase sales effectiveness.
Rob Käll believes that AI can also solve one of the greatest challenges to sales: motivation. “Productivity goes down as you grow your sales team,” Käll says. “As you grow, it’s hard to keep the passion.” Transforming observation into action, Käll created Cien, an app that helps sales teams use AI to fix productivity, improve motivation, and increase sales effectiveness. I had the chance to speak with Käll and get his take on what creates a successful sales team. Here are three factors.
Factor #1: Leads
It would be great if quantity equaled quality, but five minutes looking through leads will remind you otherwise. According to Gleanster Research, only 25 percent of all leads are legitimate and deserve further attention. That means you first have to slog through 75 percent (the haystack) to find the valuables (the needle) if you want any kind of sales effectiveness. Only horses should spend so much time sifting through hay; your employees have better things to do.
With Cien, one of Käll’s goals was to make sorting leads quick and painless. There are some indicators of a good lead that AI can look out for. For example, if a lead has all the traits and behaviors of a successful customer, mark that lead as hot. You can see how valuable is it to you and how much work would be involved in closing it into an actual customer. “AI bots and other AI solutions will better prequalify inbound leads and assist with customer retention,” says Forbes Agency Council member Loren Baker. “Chatbots and messenger bots can lead the lead or concerned user down a path that lets the sales team know exactly what they need from a lead [qualification] perspective.”
Factor #2: People
AI does not remove people from the process; it empowers them to use the process better. A good AI system should tell the employee which leads and opportunities are worth chasing. It can also offer personalized advice (based on research and group experience) on how to improve performance by focusing on specific trouble areas, such as timeliness and follow-up. The employee can also use the AI for daily reminders and lead prioritization, then measure their own performance against team members in the same system.
With AI, you can get to know your employees in ways that a company party just doesn’t facilitate. That’s because AI is primarily useful for monitoring and evaluating. Use AI to measure your team’s success and sales effectiveness, then compare that with logged actions and behaviors that will need to be enforced or corrected (e.g. marketing, inside sales, outside sales, team mood, pricing, etc.). Käll has used his AI to understand those employee character traits that are harder to quantify, like “experience in the industry, product knowledge and industry knowledge, work ethic, and ability to close deals.”
Factor #3: Macro
When you go for a jog, you can’t just dress or plan according to the temperature of your home. As soon as you leave your front door, the conditions change—if it’s raining outside and you haven’t planned accordingly, your jog will be a disaster. Sales work the same way: you can’t plan them based solely on conditions within your company. You need to keep the macro factors in mind. Investopedia defines a macro factor as one that is “pertinent to a broad economy at the regional or national level and affects a large population rather than a few select individuals.” That can mean economic growth, competition, sports results, seasonality, etc.—basically anything outside of your control.
Käll designed Cien to work like a Fitbit for your business: his app gauges a business’s health daily and helps clients plan according to their economic environments. You need to keep the big, macro factors in mind when closing your sales, and AI makes it possible to plan for these factors by recording the macro factors that either help or hurt your business and proposing the actions that have succeeded in the past.
Combining these factors with AI, you’ll find that you can start predicting and calculating things you never could before. Your sales effectiveness can’t help but improve. “How do you incorporate human behavior into a quantitative model?” Käll asks. “There are plenty of learning algorithms out there, but very few take human behavior into account. That’s what sales professionals like about Cien. We give them the ability to see and understand how and why they achieve their goals.”