Published by : Louis Larochelle
Are salespeople threatened by the arrival of artificial intelligence?
At Prima Resource, we advocate the science behind the sale. However, a component of this science which is growing in importance is the technological aspect, and in particular, the future of artificial intelligence (AI).
Let’s further explore the topic to measure its impact.
What is artificial intelligence in sales?
Today, still in its infancy, AI meets the entrepreneurs’ desire to eliminate certain positions in sales. It’s very useful for simple sales processes, that is, when products and services are very well defined.
First, AI facilitates the processing of incoming calls. An automated system guides the client in the sales process, right up to the transaction. The client is invited to discuss with a robot, impersonating a human voice and interpreting responses using phrases and targeted keywords.
The system also conducts outgoing calls. For example, it can contact the clients to validate basic information, like their contact details.
Technology is currently aiming to develop a more sophisticated AI. This system would take place early in the sales process, by calling the decision-makers and asking them specific questions to qualify them.
Considering the information provided, the representative would then take over. He would concentrate on the value selling of their product or service, as well as building a long-term relationship with the client.
What are the implications of using artificial intelligence?
To elucidate the impact of AI in the future, we must address the issue based on the existing types of sales processes: transactional selling and consultative selling.
During a transactional sale, the salesperson meets the client’s specific requirements without necessarily having to develop a lasting and trusting relationship. The sales cycle is short, and the sale can be achieved with a simple phone call. It’s usually made by an internal employee, by phone.
This is the very essence of AI. It threatens to replace millions of salespeople worldwide who carry out hunting and prospecting calls.
What does the future hold for these salespeople who occupy these positions? The elite will be asked to play an external role, to perform consultative selling in collaboration with AI. In effect, this will result, as an advantage, in the speeding up of the sales process and getting to closing more rapidly.
Consultative selling is distinguished by its relational aspect and deeper investigative work. It is mainly external, representatives being called to travel to meet prospects. They must establish a lasting relationship and focus on the added value of their product or service. In addition, consultative selling demands asking the tough questions, so that the salesperson can ascertain which issues the decision-maker is having.
This external sales force will not be replaced anytime soon. The human aspect is, and will remain essential to build confidence during complex sales cycles.
Use AI to offload administrative tasks.
Face to face discussions during which tough questions are asked are essential to the success of a consultative sales approach. No artificial intelligence can substitute for the representative who carries out this task: it’s what builds trust and sells the value of the product or service.
It’s rather in the subsequent step that the potential of artificial intelligence unfolds. Indeed, a computer program can take over the administrative tasks of the consultative selling element, for example, in determining the amount and nature of the activities, and in managing the reminders.
Not all salespeople have enough experience to know how much business they should generate to achieve their goals. AI can help them build their sales pipeline according to the conversion and attrition rate (unit that measures the loss of clients) of every step of the sales process.
A technology that assists the representative
The AI program becomes an efficient personal assistant for the salesperson, by allowing them to automatically plan activities for each step according to its objectives and rate of attrition.
In addition to automatizing certain administrative tasks, it performs regular reminders to ensure that no critical step is forgotten. Furthermore, it easily eliminates the futile opportunities and clearly indicates the remaining efforts needed to achieve objectives, and in turn, the commissions.
A program using AI is also very useful for sales managers. By devoting less attention to ensuring that the bad opportunities are abandoned, and knowing that activities are being better planned, they can optimize the time spent with their representatives.
They can prioritize their focus on the conclusion of the sales, the rationale for the value of the products, and coaching.
Some practical applications of artificial intelligence
A program that uses AI can achieve a variety of secondary tasks to allow the salesperson to devote his time and energy to quality, in depth conversations with prospects.
For example, if in the CRM, the last client interaction was over 15 days ago, the program can offer to send a reminder email to revive the discussion. It can also automatically note appointments that the representative didn’t have the time to put on the schedule.
The program can even propose a first draft of potential clients from their LinkedIn contacts and who are part of their business’s target public. It also offers the possibility to make the first approach to avoid the representative wasting time with prospects who don’t show any interest from the outset.
Finally, the algorithm can make recommendations according to the state of the pipeline, a nice way to make sure that the follow-ups of the salesperson are adequate and regular.
Adapting to AI, the solutions
Salespeople must quickly adapt to the evolution of AI. First, make sure that your salespeople possess the skills required to master consultative selling and that they follow a clear sales process. In the short term, companies must explore the possibilities of using AI to replace certain entry-level positions. Salespeople, having made the switch from internal to external, will be called to do more consultative selling.
In the medium term, they will seek to use AI to improve the efficiency of their external sales force. Automated systems will begin the process so that once again, representatives will have the opportunity to follow up with a conversation meant to develop a lasting bond.
In the very long term, we can anticipate that salespeople will be empowered by real-time AI. By analyzing influencers and decision-makers, AI will support the salesperson throughout the sales cycle, noting opportunities. Keep in mind, human contribution will always be required to establish a trusting relationship.
Where to start?
The intervention, determination, and intelligence of the representatives remain essential to the conclusion of the sales and prioritizing a good network of clients.
However, it’s crucial for companies to resort to artificial intelligence to simplify and delegate certain tasks, as well as to facilitate the organization of activities and the schedule.
It’s important to remain at the forefront of technology to continue to be a part of the discussion and remain ahead of the market.
As of now, a great way to start is by evaluating your sales force. Identify the consultative selling skills which your representatives must improve, because these skills are necessary with the advent of AI.
You will be able to identify the training or coaching that will help them to take the technological shift with ease.