"AI-guided selling" is a term which well-informed sales teams have likely heard of by now. Marked by an unprecedented shift towards digital processes in sales and beyond, the past two years have made clear what has long been apparent: Without data-driven, highly automated sales processes, B2B sales will not be able to keep pace in the near future.
Vice President in Research at Gartner, Tad Travis explains that the pandemic has exposed gaps in many companies' sales processes. To continue to thrive, sales organizations are now challenged to quickly automate their sales processes with the right technologies.
“AI is the future of sales, and those who ignore it will disappear.” -Tony Hughes
One thing is certain: There will be winners and losers. Tony Hughes, one of the best-known sales trainers from Sydney and author of the bestseller "Tech-Powered Sales," dares to directly state what many sales organizations (especially in Europe) are still turning a blind eye to: "AI is the future of sales, and those who ignore it will disappear."
Sales Managers Face Particular Challenges
Hughes further predicts that "[…] one-third of field salespeople will no longer exist by the end of the 2020s." For sales managers, in particular, he sees an imminent tipping point on the horizon. According to Hughes, they hold the "most at-risk management role inside a company." Many are already witnessing declines in their targeted sales outcomes. To be a winner in the hyper-automation of sales, sales leaders must embrace the new rules of the B2B digital sales game.
The Future MVP of B2B Sales 4.0: Artificial Intelligence
The most valuable player on the field in the game of sales automation board is well known: Artificial Intelligence (or AI for short). According to Gartner, by 2025, three-quarters of B2B sales organizations will augment their traditional sales playbooks with artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
AI-Guided Selling: Intelligent Sales Instead of a Gut Feeling
When talking about artificial intelligence in B2B sales, one of the most important buzzwords is "AI-Guided Selling".
AI-guided selling describes a sales process optimized through the use of AI and machine learning. It supports sales employees in finding their way in the increasingly complex sales environment. Special software is used for this purpose, namely AI-guided selling software.
How Does AI-Guided Selling Software Work?
What may sound complicated at first for less tech-savvy sales organizations, can be easily integrated into existing sales processes. AI-guided selling software is linked to the CRM already in use - such as Pipedrive or Hubspot. This allows the AI software to access and analyze sales cycle data. On this basis, the software provides the sales team with automated information and recommendations for action to further optimize any sales process.
AI guided selling software works like a navigation system for sales. It navigates sales teams along the shortest and fastest paths to the next deal. The AI software thus enables sales teams to reach their goal more efficiently, i.e. with fewer resources and in less time.
So, which B2B SaaS sales processes specifically benefit from AI-guided selling software on a day-to-day basis? These are the most notable benefits of AI-guided selling software:
Benefit #1: Pipeline Health Always at a Glance
In increasingly complex digital sales cycles, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain an overview of long-term sales development and generate realistic forecasts. This is where the tried-and-true gut feeling is pushed to the limit - another reason why data-driven evaluation and presentation of Pipeline Health are now more essential than ever. AI-guided selling constantly analyzes all important KPI's of the sales pipeline, including:
Number of deals in the pipeline
Average deal size
Data is interpreted automatically with the help of AI-supported sales software. With deals to watch, for example, sales managers can see at a glance the deals to focus on: whether there are enough effective deals in the pipeline to achieve the targeted revenue.
Benefit #2: Waste Less Time on Deals That Will Never Happen
40 percent of all sales activities are spent on deals that never materialize. This not only costs time but is also reflected in the sales figures. What would sales development look like if these resources were instead invested in more promising sales cycles?
The longer a deal is in the pipeline, the more it loses momentum. As a result, deals ultimately become less and less likely. Based on this and other data from the CRM, AI-guided sales software compares the current status of the deals with the forecast target time.
On this basis, each deal presented in the pipeline is given a risk score and a win probability. This allows sales managers to see at a glance whether it is worth investing further resources in a particular deal or whether it’s in their best interest to focus on other sales cycles instead.
Benefit #3: Focus on Effective Deals with AI-Guided Selling
There are always deals that can be won faster than others. In the abundance of processes in the pipeline, these deals tend to get lost more often than sales teams realize.
If you don't want to miss out on effective deals (deals that can be closed faster than average), sooner or later you won't be able to avoid AI-based analytics.
With the data-driven insights generated by AI-guided selling software, particularly effective deals are brought to the forefront and sales teams are warned as soon as they are at risk. In this way, sales teams can optimally transform their available resources into deals in a data-driven manner.
Benefit #4: Predict the "Ideal Path" for Each Sales Process
Cold mail, demo, call, offer - deal? If there were one magic formula for success, every sales rep would always know which step to take next.
But sales cycles are becoming increasingly complex in today’s digital-first environment. Customers are well informed and highly active across multiple channels. Which communication channel is the right one? When is the best time to reach out? How and when should I make an offer?
These questions can be answered more and more effectively with the help of AI-guided selling software. With evaluated data from the CRM, the software identifies patterns for individual sales cycles. Accordingly, it is possible to provide an individualized formula for success, i.e. a set of specific instructions for the optimal sales process for each deal within the sales pipeline. The result is shortened sales cycles and increased profit probabilities.
Benefit #5: Identify the Optimal Vertical for Each Sales Rep
AI-guided selling software uses data from the CRM to identify typical patterns within the sales cycle. For example, based on the previous successes and failures of each sales rep, the software can determine in which vertical yield is the highest number of closed deals. This allows sales reps to focus on the deals found within their most successful niche. For instance, this could be a specific customer base within a specific industry.
Ready for B2B Sales 4.0? Here’s a summary of the most important information on AI-guided selling software straight from the experts at Dealcode.
Niehaus A., Emrich K. (2020): Vertrieb 4.0 – Herausforderungen für Vertriebsorganisationen im digitalen Wandel. In: Binckebanck L., Hölter AK., Tiffert A. (eds): Führung von Vertriebsorganisationen. Edition Sales Excellence. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-26727-8_17 (accessed on 14.02.2022).
Boulden, M. et al. (2020): The Future of Sales. Transformational Strategies for B2B Sales Organizations. Gartner for Sales. https://www.gartner.com/en/sales/trends/future-of-sales (accessed on 14.02.2022).
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