“Is Artificial Intelligence the future?” I bet it’s not the first time you read this question. We’ve talked about AI last year, we are repeating it today, and we’ll probably formulate the question next year as well. Truth be told, the subject has been around since 1943! (really, you can google this) Perhaps, a more interesting question is: Where will AI be in 2019?
Before we start talking about the evolution of AI and its effect on sales, we have to keep in mind there are no such things as “finished technologies.” Technology is always moving forward, and AI is no exception.
As with many inventions, it started as a dream and it slowly became a reality. The problem many people have with AI is that it’s doesn’t look exactly how they pictured it. Not yet. We are still fairly far from an Asimov story with robots cleaning our house. We are barely witnessing Artificial Intelligence’s childhood.
However, rather than being disappointed, we should pay attention to its evolution. This child learns fast, and it starts making a difference in the way we do business. Today, we’ll dig into the 4 AI trends that are changing the way salespeople prepare and close deals. We predict that these trends will expand their reach in 2019.
Part I- The chosen ones
1. Sales Forecasting and Augmented Analytics
In Business Intelligence, AI resources were traditionally taking over the repetitive tasks of business analysis. These were mostly related to big data processing, but recently augmented analytics took a step further to analyze this data, and even suggest further steps.
“I believe that in 2019 AI will be still more about Augmented Intelligence, then Artificial Intelligence. The most significant value AI is producing to salespeople today is saving their time and bringing more data to the table to improve the decision-making process, definitely not replacing them. So, salespeople, or like in our case, real estate agents can be more focused on selling and personal communication with people rather than doing a lot of routine tasks that no one really likes.” - Dan Hnatkovskyy, Co-founder at Propertymate
Furthermore, Gartner predicts that by 2020, augmented analytics capabilities will be the “dominant driver of new purchases” of business intelligence software.
“What we are seeing it’s the development of generic predictive systems. Through an intelligent reading of big data, these systems serve to respond in the commercial environment to questions such as: is this client going to buy or not? How much will I sell this month? What destination will be the most requested? for the bridge of May?” - Sophie Miles, CEO & Co-Founder of elMejorTrato.com
What if you could combine the data from all your business' applications into one single source of truth and have AI analyze it? Salespeople will have access to a pretty accurate sales forecasting based on a 360-degree view of their clients. Make sure to have your data squeaky-clean for 2019!
“Wider implementation of AI in the CRM systems will help us uncover more valuable data about the customers, finding tiniest details invisible to human brains.” - Illia Termeno, Extrabrains Marketing Agency
2. Voice-powered applications
Last year we predicted that chatbots were going to take over customer support and have a more important role in sales. Thought their use has certainly grown, they are far from the boom we expected. However, other voice-enabled sales machines like Alexa’s Voice System and the diverse voice related gadgets of Google did quite better and there’s no reason to believe these great companies won’t adjust and refine these products. A few weeks ago, Google Duplex was already raising some eyebrows, this voice-powered system can make basic phone appointments for you (it really sounds like a real person! It’s awesome). It’s definitely worthy to keep an eye on that.
In September, Salesforce introduced “Einstein Voice- You talk AI listens” with a promise for salespeople: “Sales managers will be armed with real-time insights, and reps will be more efficient and productive. And because Salesforce Einstein is built into the Salesforce platform, it will have more data to crunch so its predictions and recommendations will be even smarter.”
Overall, smart voice assistants are here to stay for a simple reason: salespeople are always on the road. Voice assistants guarantee complete hands-free online navigation. Imagine a world with no need for passwords! Voice ID is the new way for sales reps. Want some empathy? The latest generation of AI assistants can already adjust your customer’s mood by analyzing the tone in their voice.
3. CRM: Lead generation and qualification
According to Salesforce, companies using artificial intelligence software call on this assistance at every stage of the sales cycle: from lead generation, scoring and nurturing to sales forecasting and activity logging to closing deals. We asked experts from different industries how do they think AI will impact their lead generation and qualification. This is what they said:
“The modern CRM enabled by AI techniques are capable of collecting a great deal of data to make intelligent recommendations about customer interactions, the level and depth of interactions with different touchpoints, and while at it, making inferences about how valuable a particular customer can be (...) Armed with CRM powered by AI techniques, a sales professional can know precisely and accurately the quality score of the lead, the time of the day at which customers are most likely to buy from you, the time to make calls, and the number of times those calls should be made.” - Ketan Kapoor, CEO & Co-Founder Mettl
“AI will be able to quickly score inbound leads based on a mix of past sales data and algorithmic scoring. It will be able to quickly identify leads that are more ideal matches for your teams and even pull in additional context to help the sales team understand the needs and direction of that company.” - Alan LaFrance, Marketing Strategy Manager at Lawnstarter
Alan’s prediction is aligned with what lately seems to be the focus of CRM providers: lead scoring or qualification. This feature allows sales representatives to focus on the leads that actually have a chance to convert. Add AI in the equation and you can really boost salespeople productivity, and there’s more to it:
“Virtual Assistants work alongside sales rep to offload manual, repetitive and error-prone tasks such as scheduling calls, qualifying leads, following up and handling objections. Reps will get involved as soon as the lead is qualified and a human is required to close. Using machine learning, AI-Powered Sales Assistants will become smarter as they learn from the real reps.” -Ilan Kasan CEO, Exceed.ai
4. Video and Image Analysis
According to Webpuppies: “For consumers, the major development in the coming years would be humanized technology, producing services you can communicate with through a microphone and even have a face-to-face conversation and interact with.”
Wait, let's forget about "the coming years"! Already a few weeks ago, world’s first AI news anchor was introduced in China.
In Sales, this type of technology could put an end to the barrier between the customer or prospect and the company. Could an AI become your new colleague?
“Artificial intelligence recognizing objects in videos and images is going to go mainstream in sales applications in 2019. The customer or sales agent will be able to take a video of a space and have the AI instantly detail the room for them. The net result will be to allow the sales person to capture a customer instantly and move quickly to education and building trust, which will result in a better close rate. In applications like household goods or insurance, for example, surveying a consumer’s home could take a salesperson over an hour. In 2019, it will take less than 10 minutes. Sales agents not using the tech, may get left behind.” Brian Jessup, Director of AI Products at Yembo
Part II - A Futuristic Glossary (In “Muggle”)
Let’s take go over some useful AI-related terms…
- AI: Artificial Intelligence covers a whole spectrum of technologies that can mimic human intelligence. Based on mathematics, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other areas of knowledge, AI machines or algorithms can mimic human reasoning, perception, and learning.
- IoT: We see it everywhere nowadays. It stands for “Internet of things.” But it goes beyond the standard internet-related devices (laptops, smartphones, etc.) It covers vehicles, home devices, and any other type of item able to connect, collect and exchange data. It’s expected to keep growing exponentially during the next decade.
- 5G: The expected evolution of cellular mobile communications 4G. For March 2020, 5G should be up and running, offering high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity.
- ANN: acronym for an artificial neural network. This is basically an algorithm that tries to mimic the human brain connections, is one of the main tools used in machine learning. The method is to create little nodes of information and interconnect so they’re able to send out the right information.
- Conversational AI: These are the result of highly-sophisticated engines that can elevate the conversations between customers and companies, leading to better customer experiences, and more efficient employees.
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