Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Increase Sales

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not just another trendy technology. It’s a truly transformative force that will reshape our lives in 2024 and beyond. Its impact could even surpass that of television, air travel, and the internet in the history of human development, inspiring hope and anticipation for the future.

So, what is AI, and why does it matter to people in sales? AI may be described as a newly emerging field of computer science where machines are programmed to use their memory or learning experiences to react to stored information to make decisions like human beings. By imitating human thinking, the complex decisions made by computers will approximate those made by a normal human brain. So, it is “machine-displayed intelligence that simulates human behavior or thinking and can be trained to solve specific problems. It is a combination of machine learning techniques and deep learning. Types of artificial intelligence models are trained using vast volumes of data and can make intelligent decisions.”[1] One may think of C2PO and R2D2 from “Star Wars.” They are droids or robots that were designed to operate like humans.

Microsoft co-founder “Bill Gates said he believes artificial intelligence is the most revolutionary technology he has seen in decades, on par with computers, cellphones and the internet.”1

The business applications of AI are unlimited and are already in widespread usage for e-commerce, consumer and retail, life sciences and health care, banking and financial services, education, media and telecom, security and privacy, navigation, industrial and manufacturing, including robotics, agriculture, data analytics, military and government usage, and sales and marketing. AI applications have “the potential to add contextual awareness and human-like decision-making to enterprise workflows and could radically change how we do business.”[2]

AI is not just a powerful tool but also affordable and flexible. It doesn’t require huge investments and can be deployed project-by-project without a large enterprise-wide commitment. This affordability empowers businesses of all sizes to access and leverage the benefits of AI, making it a practical and inclusive option.

Some are concerned that AI may take over the critical thinking functions necessary to make good decisions, and I agree. AI must be deployed when decisions are very routine and not consequential.

Is AI Hype or a Giant Leap Forward?

It is the latter. It is the next step from using Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. Microsoft has also released a similar AI chatbot application called Bing Chat, Anthropic, another start-up, Claude, and Google has released Bard. I expect Apple and many others will follow.

In a recent report on AI, Deloitte stated, “Ultimately, Generative AI could create a more profound relationship between humans and technology, even more than the cloud, the smartphone, and the internet did before.”[3] So, I do not believe that the recent publicity is over-hyped.

Anyone using Google or smartphones is very familiar with this standard functionality: It reads what you have written, fixes your spelling, and anticipates the remainder of the sentence. AI applications also include self-driving automobiles and trucks.

You may have heard or read examples of how ChatGPT generates text. ChatGPT generates text from a simple query interface based on the data it has gathered, stored, and processed from the available text on the internet (which may be true or not) using complex algorithmic models. Contrary to what the alarmists are warning, ChatGPT, or other AI apps, will not put many people out of work, nor will it take over the writing of authors and analysts. It can aid in providing conversational texts and in creating messages.

 AI Can Help Optimize Sales and Marketing Processes

AI helps optimize sales and marketing processes and solve simple data crunching. AI will be beneficial for creating content, quickly sifting through large volumes of data, analyzing the data, designing and editing marketing material (see Simplified), routine messaging such as handling inbound information requests, developing and executing email campaigns for completing portions of Request for Proposals (RFPs); marketing intelligence; to aggregate data on potential prospects; for creating presentations; and for predictive lead scoring. Lead scoring is an application that utilizes AI to analyze the characteristics and history of prospects to determine which leads are in the company’s “Sweet Spot” and are the highest priority and to provide information on those accounts to the CRM system and the sales pro. AI can also distribute the leads to various sales pros, depending on specific criteria, such as territory, history of prior relationships, or the sales success rate with those types of accounts.

The software company Salesforce.com surveyed in 2023 of over 1,000 full-time sales professionals on generative AI in partnership with YouGov. They found that about one-third of all sales pros are currently utilizing generative AI:

  • “58% of salespros agree generative AI helps or will help them increase productivity. They estimate it saves or could save them 4.5 hours a week.
  • 56% say it helps or will help them increase sales.
  • 61% say it helps or will help them better serve customers”[4]

Without human oversight, I am wary of relying on AI for written communications between sales pros and their prospects. Your messages must be carefully crafted and customized for each instance and not created by computer software that does not have the contextual knowledge of the circumstances or the person receiving it. I am also wary of using AI to prepare sales forecasts based on the data inputted in the CRM by sales pros, as I found that the data submitted by sales pros was often overly optimistic. (I used to divide the forecasts submitted by the sales pros by two, and it was often too high.)

There are also currently hundreds (and will eventually be thousands) of apps that plug into ChatGPT to extend its value for many purposes, like the network of apps built for the Apple iPhone. For example, some apps assist in providing medical information. I am sure many more apps are currently being developed for sales operations. The possibilities are endless.

Sales managers need to create a training workshop immediately to familiarize their sales pros with AI and then another to determine which AI applications the company should consider deploying, in order of priority.

Since technology, especially AI technology, changes daily, keeping up with the latest developments is essential to determining which applications can positively impact your sales results—“move the needle.”  When you think something might be helpful, I recommend testing it with a small pilot rather than committing to a complete conversion. The pilot should provide you with most of the information you need to determine whether to go forward and the benefits and limitations of the application.

Sales managers should eagerly adopt the possible productivity improvements AI can bring while keeping watch for any issues arising from adopting new technologies. At the least, new technologies will result in the need for additional sales pros and support staff training. “Technology innovation is no longer a “nice to have” but a strategic imperative that is a vital part of decisions being made today. With the right approach, companies can use innovative technologies to create rapid response today, shape the journey to the future, and set tomorrow’s standard.”5

 

  1. Alyssa Lukpar “Bill Gates Says AI us the Most Revolutionary Technology in Decades –https://www.wsj.com/articles/bill-gates-says-artificial-intelligence-is-the-most-revolutionary-technology-in-decades-75fb8562
  2. Gopal Srinivasan, Rohan Gupta, Nitin Mittal, Rich Nanda, Costi Perricos, Kellie Nuttal, “Generative Artificial Intelligence,” Deloitte United States, accessed December 23, 2023, https://wwww2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/consulting/articles/generative-artificialhtml.
  3. “A New Frontier in Artificial Intelligence: Implications of Generative AI for Businesses,” Deloitte, accessed December 5, 2023, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/deloitte-analytics/us-ai-institute-ai-dossier-full-report.pdf
  4. “Trends in Generative AI for Sales Report, accessed December 23, 2023, https://www.sales force.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/documents/reports/trends-in-generative-ai-for-sales-report.pdfhttps://research.aimultiple.com/sales-ai/
  5. “Technology Innovation Services”, accessed December 22, 2023,
    https://www.accenture.com/ar-es/services/technologu-innovation-index.