Wed, 21 Aug 2019

B2B sales can be quite a job. It takes multiple stages of evaluation and negotiations to close a deal. After all, there's no place for impulse buying here. So, you shouldn't expect the customers to take out their credit cards and immediately make a purchase after the first contact.

As a result, the B2B sales cycles are getting longer while the conversion rates typically remain quite low.

Yet, there's one thing that can make this process much easier in many ways. Namely, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to boost your team's efficiency and, as a result, ramp up your revenue.

In this article, we will talk in more detail about the role AI can play in B2B sales and areas of its practical application.

Top 5 Ways AI Is Revolutionizing B2B Sales

There's no doubt that AI is slowly but surely taking over many aspects of our life in general and business in particular. And sales is no exception to this.

Just think of the last time you were looking for something on Amazon or simply browsing through Netflix. Remember all those "featured recommendations" or "top picks for you"? All of those are a great representation of how companies are using AI to sell their products to you.

Although not as straightforward, there are many use cases for AI in B2B sales as well.

Namely, 37% of the sales and marketing teams surveyed by Salesforce are already using AI while a further 22% either have a pilot project underway or are planning to adopt IT soon.

And there's a good reason for that: companies using artificial intelligence tend to get up to 30% higher conversion rates.

Here are some of the most prominent use cases for AI in cold B2B sales:

1. Process automation

Did you know that SDRs spend on average almost 65% of their time on activities that are not directly related to sales? This means they only have less than 3 hours a day to do what they get paid for, i.e. to sell.

Research by McKinsey Global Institute finds that the automation potential in sales ranges from 17% to 85%, depending on the salesperson occupation and business domain.

From updating data in your CRM to scheduling meetings, sorting through your inbox, and following up on prospects, there are literally dozens of routine tasks and can and should be automated using AI.

Using AI-powered sales automation software, you can significantly improve your sales team productivity. With intelligent inbox sorting, email quality check, and automated follow-ups, tools like Reply can help you save up to 7 hours per week for each salesperson, cut the number of cold calls by 10 times while closing more deals.

2. Predictive lead scoring

It is commonly known that only 20% of your leads generate revenue. The remaining 80% typically turn to be a huge waste of time.

Based on the data about the past sales as well as activity log for each specific prospect, AI can help you tell the potential customers from the leads that are not going to convert any time soon. So you can prioritize your efforts and focus on the most promising accounts.

What's more, AI can help you prospect better by picking the best prospects for your outbound sales efforts. By analyzing the data about the previously converted leads, it can help you create an accurate customer profile as well as check each prospect against it, assessing their contactability and readiness to buy.

And the best part about it is that AI-based lead scoring can be done at scale, fast and with minimum effort. An algorithm can assess thousands of prospect profiles per minute while it would take days if not weeks for a human sales rep to do the same.

3. Guided selling

Drawing on the information sourced at the lead scoring stage, AI can help sales teams segment their audience and tailor their strategies accordingly to cater to the needs of each specific prospect with personalized content and offers.

Talking about personalization, AI can help you go far beyond custom variables in your emails. Context-aware AI systems can deliver much more sophisticated experiences, e.g. suggesting products and services relevant to the client's interests or choosing the perfect time to reach out to them.

Furthermore, AI can also suggest actions based on the prospect's previous activity, behavior, and the context in general. This can lead to better prospect engagement and, as a result, higher conversion rates.

4. Sales intelligence

On top of the listed sales enablement tools, AI can be used to source actionable insights from the available data to take the guessing out of your sales process.

For example, you can use natural language processing and AI to analyze the transcripts from your calls, both successful and failed. This will help you close the gaps in your customer communication process and pinpoint the potential problems in your sales strategy.

Using sales intelligence solutions, you can also cross-sell or upsell to the current customers more effectively. Based on the context and various buying signals, AI can identify your prospect needs and help you anticipate them.

5. Sales forecasting

In addition to identifying the most promising prospects and tailoring your sales activities accordingly, data analytics and AI can help you predict your sales outcomes.

Drawing on deep insights about your prospects and past sales activities, AI can accurately predict buying behavior and help you better manage demand. As a result, you will be able to make informed decisions, establish realistic, data-backed KPIs, and adjust your sales strategy taking into account your current business needs and challenges.

What's more, being able to forecast the revenue, sales teams can better plan their budgets and allocate their resources more effectively.

As a result, the Aberdeen Group research finds that organizations with accurate sales forecasts are 13% more likely to grow their revenue year-over-year and 8% more likely to hit quota.

The Future of Sales Looks Bright

Of course, the use cases listed above represent only the tip of the iceberg. The real potential of AI in sales is still to be discovered.

Yet, the value of sales automation and enablement tools is already quite obvious. The organizations that have adopted AI in sales are more than happy with the results, that includes over 50% growth in the number of leads and appointments and up to 60% cost reduction, according to HBR.

However, if you are afraid to lose your job to a machine, I have good news for you. It is very unlikely that AI will make the role of B2B sales manager obsolete.

Right now, artificial intelligence is aimed to support and supplement the salespeople, not to replace them. As Mark Hunter, one of the world's most influential sales leaders, puts it: "Before anyone panics and thinks their job is at risk, a better approach is to ask themselves if AI can help them do their job better."

So, considering the increasingly complex customer relationships, humans will remain a key element of the sales process, at least for now. After all, there is no way a machine, no matter how smart, could beat an experienced sales rep when it comes to understanding and addressing other human's needs, emotions, doubts.

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