I posted an article on Sales Enablement recently. Much of the modern software used in that niche utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let us focus on AI now.
What Is AI?
Firstly, let us understand what AI is. Most of us will think back (forward?) to Arnold, Terminator and Skynet and why not? Machine Learning is a subset of AI, but more precisely Artificial Intelligence is programming that teaches a system to mimic human behaviour and actions, but obviously at a faster and more effective manner that brings with it the consistency of a machine. More completely, AI is a series of networks that leverages statistics and instructions over and over to emulate humans. It is designed to improve overtime as well because the more ‘experiences’ (a.k.a. statistics) it has the more complete it becomes.
One more thing, AI may be all the rage now, but it is hardly new. This notion goes back to Alan Turing and the 1950s. For an early application look up ELIZA from the 1960s.
So What (For Sales)?
The end goal, however, remains somewhat elusive. Systems are not perfect. It is thought that perfection has been attained when humans cannot fathom whether they are dealing with a machine or a human being and results are impeccable. If AI, therefore, includes Machine Learning, analytics, natural language, simulation, learning and interaction then how can it help the profession of sales? Here the idea is to take all the information and transaction in sales – conversations, e-mails, responses or lack thereof, every CRM entry, every sale, every lost deal, et cetra – and put them into one place in order to help the seller. The goal is to identify the correct course of action, the next step, the way to help customers and sellers and to win business. Is it possible? To some extent the answer is yes. The hesitation, however, stems from the unpredictability of human psychology and of course different cultures and needs or wants. Yet, AI is supposed to learn those too because after all, it is all data translated to action.
So, Is AI Going To Take Over The World And Rid Us Of Our Jobs (And Sustenance)?
Maybe. Still, as of today the reality on the ground is that AI is here to assist, help, improve and enhance the seller’s efforts not replace it. Put that way, would anyone argue against help? Which salesperson would claim he or she does not need help? One issue, that one can foresee easily, is that AI may be trained to be biased to think like a seller or a vendor. To be successful, this writer supposes, AI needs to think like a customer or prospect. That is the way to successfully sell after all.
So Which Are The Tools?
Like any other category, AI solutions are bound to be comprised of the good, the bad and the so-so and trials, proofs of concept and honest assessments are a must. It is smart to gauge results, ask the user community (the sales team) honestly and measure revenue enhancement before committing. Randomly picked, because TNG and SugarCRM are as good or bad as any other to keep an eye on, I have bookmarked this in order to track the revenue for my ‘proof is in the pudding’ hobby tracking, but truthfully the market will speak sooner or later.
One last thing. Candidly put whether effective or not, the reality is that the market for AI-driven solutions in sales is going to expand. Just keep in mind how much salespeople have traditionally disliked using CRM and yet the parallel expansion and growth of the sector! One factor that speaks to my hypothesis is the growth of AI in other niches. With increased adoption of AI in healthcare, customer service, arts and more the concept is becoming mainstream, which means more revenue for the sector to enable improvement and also for more people to become more comfortable with the notion.
Here goes a list of vendors and providers in the Sales AI space:
- Affinity (including Nudge.ai) – A tracking CRM for industries where relationships are important.
- Conversica – Provider of a conversational AI. Claims that all its AI Assistants are more accurate than a human. Suited for business development and marketing.
- Clari – An opportunity management and forecasting tool to offer better visibility to sales teams.
- Drift – Sales and Marketing conversation at the right time with the appropriate content plus insights especially for inbounds.
- Exceed.AI (Part of Genesys) – Similar to drift geared towards inbound prospects and leads for sales and marketing, it automatically picks up the conversation, sets appointments and updates Calendars.
- Gong.AI – Captures and analyzes customer interactions for insights and next steps.
- Heyday – Tuned for retail, Heyday’s AI connects inventory and catalogue to customer search results and nudges sales to connect with customers when most appropriate.
- Introhive – Relationship intelligence that leverages CRM to reveal ones network and relationships with customers.
- Kixie – Automates calling and texting of the names in CRM and records and tracks the events.
- People.ai – Provides persona-specific productivity tools and provides insights.
- SalesDirector.ai – Offers predictive insights into sales team’s pipeline and customer interactions.
- Salesforce – Salesforce, the leader in CRM, has embedded AI in much of its solutions for insights and automation.
- Saleswhale (Part Of 6Sense) – An AI assistant to engage with and follow-up with leads.
- VeloxyIO – A platform that integrates e-mail, CRM and calling into one solution and view.
- Zendesk – Engage with and support customers across a myriad of channels and keep all interactions in one place.
*Things That Need To Go Away: AI technology companies that are made to be acquired as opposed to being there long-term to help customers.