“Are you going to hit your sales target this quarter?”
This question holds true for quota carrying B2B Sales Professionals. There is nothing more important than closing the right deals faster and being smarter.
Sales is hard and not getting any easier as sales leaders today find themselves strapped for time and are often focused on activities – not conducive to successful conversion or win rates. 30-60% of sales reps in the mid-tier do not meet their sales targets or forecast accurately, while customer facing productivity has declined from 50% to 36% over the past five years (Accenture, CSO Insights).
Adding to the noise in the sales process, the B2B sales cycle has been turned upside down and sales teams are scrambling to keep up with the changes. Sales and marketing leaders have not adapted rapidly enough, and hence, productivity has dropped dramatically, resulting in new questions like: Will robots be more efficient?
How did we get to this point and how can sales professionals leverage Artificial Intelligence, ‘AI’ guided selling to maximize sales performance?
The Game has Changed
Traditionally, sales teams would engage buyers early in the sales cycle to introduce features, competitive comparisons and negotiate price. Although buyers become aware of products and services through various marketing channels and do like to hear from vendors early, they do not look to sales for the bulk of their intel gathering as they are already through their research cycle, more often than not. Today, most information can be easily acquired on-line and buyers now rely on sales mostly to discuss solution fit and pricing terms before making purchasing decisions. The following stats aggregated by Spotio further demonstrate how buyers acquire their intel:
- 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions (IDC)
- 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information from a series of articles versus an advertisement. (B2B PR Sense)
- 77% of B2B purchasers said that they would not even speak to a salesperson until they had done their own research (The Corporate Executive Board)
- 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally (Sirius Decisions)
These changes have driven sales and marketing organizations to make significant investments in digital platforms to track and respond to buyers. Talk about pressure, what options are available? Its almost like you have to be superman or superwoman to hit your number.
Digital Age of Sales Enablement
As we all know, sales professionals only have a certain number of hours in the day and certainly do not have the time combing through data. They are incentivised to sell, not conduct hours of research. Time is better spent on engaging buyers and building relationships necessary to either acquire new customers or maintain existing ones. It makes sense to arm sales professionals with quick, actionable intelligence to prioritize their sales cycle, help them forecast more accurately, and allocate scarce time more wisely. This guides them to successfully win outcomes and stop wasting time pursuing unproductive sales cycles.
Enter a plethora of sales apps designed to deliver information expediently to sales pros with the click of a button. No more wasting time acquiring necessary client background – there’s an app for that. No more asking your colleagues for internal documentation – there’s an app for that. No more losing time and money chasing after the wrong deals by forecasting inaccurately. The price of a miss is very high and impacts investor and employee confidence. Finding the right trusted and explainable AI solution is key to shifting tides in purchasing patterns and buying cycles.
It must be emphasized that purchasing an app is one thing, but having the company adopt these changes is a different matter altogether. Business leaders must drive digital transformation and work to evolve their organization into an analytically focused culture, strategically positioned to grow revenues predictably. So often CRM’s have poor data completeness that adoption is impacted. Estimates are that more than 60% of CRM investments are not offering a positive ROI, so to win, finding solutions that drive more value on the CRM stacks is key to execution success.
Moving from Big Data to Better Data
‘Big data’ was one of those catch phrases ubiquitous in the blogger sphere for a few years. Companies spent a great deal of time and resources gobbling up as much data as they could conceivably hold. Now the challenge becomes what to do with all of this Data. AI has been one of the most significant advances to sales enablement, even if it is not fully understood. Without having one’s eyes glaze over, think of AI as making sense of huge amounts of information, finding success patterns and predicting outcomes. The same way Amazon sends you product options based on your purchases or Netflix suggests movies to watch, AI can help guide sales professionals with predictive and powerful insights.
Customer Relationship Management tools ‘CRM,’ for example, offers mountains of juicy insights waiting for sales to uncover and pounce on. Data in most CRMs tends to be incomplete, misleading or lacking substantive guidance for making decisions. This is merely a consequence of a big data platform without proper validation of data. Understanding data historically has now shifted to further validating, organizing and leveraging intel to see not only what has happened but what will happen. AI can validate data quickly and efficiently, providing B2B sales with key predictive KPI insights into pipeline, feedback on accounts, opportunities and helps prioritize time to focus on activities necessary for closing the right deals.
Below are some of the benefits of using AI technology that we have learned from our proven client deployment, to improve sales performance:
- Predictive Forecasting: Improve revenue forecasting and provide greater awareness on what is likely to happen using valuable data insights
- Opportunity Scoring:Increase top line revenue growth by validating opportunities and increase insights on propensity to purchase
- Account Scoring:Clean data sets in CRMs to identify the gaps in your data patterns and provide account intelligence on the most important accounts
- Predictive Pricing:Track price and discount ranges to make assessments on pricing
- Sales Enablement Training: Improve velocity of talent learning and improve productivity levels of sales
Just as Salesforce revolutionized customer relationship management, so too can AI guided-selling bring B2B sales performance to the next level. AI sales approaches yield on average an ROI of over 250%, compared to rear view BI approaches. No one today can afford to spend the time looking in the rear-view mirror.
More than an app it’s about creating a company culture around smarter analytics to support sales professionals, so they can beat their numbers quarter after quarter. This tighter focus and leveraging AI Guided Selling solutions is one of the modernized approaches that we have seen that works for our clients. It’s simply all about Seeing More to Win More.
Zoltan Lorantffy, Chief Growth Officer, SalesChoice
Dr. Cindy Gordon,
CEO and Founder, SalesChoice Inc.