There is definitely a side of selling products and services that is uniquely human, but artificial intelligence can arm sales professionals with insights that can improve the sales function. AI helps improve sales forecasting, predict customer needs, and improve communication. And intelligent machines can help sales professionals manage their time and identify who they need to follow-up with and when as well as what customers might be ready to convert.
Crying the alarm for the death of the sales professional at the hands of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is a bit too dramatic. But, it’s safe to say that organisations that transform their sales functions due to machine learning and AI will find themselves rising above the competition.
There are many ways that companies can use machine learning in their sales process. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
Interpret customer data: Machine learning helps make sense of the data we collect about our customers. Research shows how important it is to have a “data-driven understanding” of our customers. Even though many organizations have systems and spent resources to gather and store customer data, it’s the machine learning that will now help us make effective use of that data in ways that relying on humans alone could not.
Improve sales forecasting: When you gather data on your prospect (company size, stakeholders, solutions they want) and then through machine learning have the ability to compare it to historical sales efforts, you can connect the dots and better predict what solutions would be effective and the likelihood of the deal closing and how long it will take. This insight helps sales management better allocate resources and predict sales projections.
Predict customer needs: Business success relies on how well we provide what our customers need. Machine learning can improve how responsive and proactive we are to anticipate the needs of our customers. The better we are in sales at addressing our clients’ needs before they get escalated and at suggesting a solution that could help make their life better and easier, the stronger our relationship will be. Machines won’t forget to follow-up or be too busy to proactively share solutions.
Efficient transactional sales: According to, by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their interactions with an organization without interacting with a human. Having machines step in to handle certain sales efforts quickly and effectively can free up the human sales force to focus on the relationship.
Sales communication: There will most likely be dramatic changes to sales communication as a result of machine learning. If business communication mimics the transformation of consumer communication, the business equivalent of short-form communication such as tweets and text messages will be AI responses. Machines can quickly and easily answer queries about pricing, product features or contract terms. Within the next decade, virtual reality would allow prospects to tour a factory, “join” in to conferences and meetings with your entire team and see products being manufactured, all without leaving their own office.
We get a glimpse into the way sales functions will change by looking at the promises of Einstein, the AI solution from the CRM company Salesforce. Einstein helps sales personnel by reminding them of who to follow-up with, what opportunity should be prioritized because of a high probability of conversion and help to predict the best product or service for each prospect.
Machine learning will help process the data and identify opportunities for sales personnel to act upon. Machines can take care of transactional sales to free up the human salesforce to build relationships and nurture their leads in ways only humans can. By taking care of mundane tasks for sales staff, machines clear the way for the sales process to be better and more effective.