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Artificial intelligence has taken a starring role in the sales industry. From natural language processing to facial recognition technology, machine learning helps sellers prioritize their time with engaged leads and learn what truly resonates with buyers.
The more AI can handle administrative tasks for sellers, the more time sellers have to focus on actually engaging with buyers. Additionally, AI can provide actionable insights based on data analysis that would take hours (or even years) for humans to dissect.
Is It Too Good to Be True?
Although this all sounds positive — and reflects a harmony between two seemingly competitive spaces — the idea of AI integration can spark fear and speculation in sellers and buyers alike. Just how synergistic are AI and sales, really?
Below are four misconceptions about AI and our take on the true state of its relationship with the sales industry:
Misconception No. 1: Artificial Intelligence Will Replace Sales Jobs
This is simply not true. Sales will always be a people-driven industry; AI just allows sellers to stick to the “people” part rather than the “tech” part. Instead of spending just 34% of their days actually selling — and spending the other two-thirds on non-sales-related tasks (including easily automated ones) — sellers can use their time to engage with buyers and ultimately foster the meaningful relationships necessary for a sale.
Sergey Medved, ClearSlide’s senior director of product management, broke it down like this: “Sales jobs are turning into ‘superjobs’ — jobs that used to be done by several people. It’s now expected that every seller not only sells, but also acts as a part-time data analyst, engagement manager, and content manager.” AI-enabled tools are a must in the sales tech stack, because that’s the only way today’s superjob sellers can keep up with industry expectations and requirements.
Misconception No. 2: AI Is Magic
We interviewed a panel of sales industry thought leaders to identify the most common misconceptions about AI and what the truth is underneath the confusion. AI technology looks like magic to most of us because it can mine so much data so quickly and make accurate predictions. But Mike Kaput, director of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, reminds us that it’s math — not magic. “There are many, many things AI-powered technologies cannot do, and might never be able to do,” he explains. To be sure, he adds that AI technologies are impressive and are poised to be game-changers in the sales industry. However, they’re not about to become human.
On the opposite end, all the hype around AI leads many people to think that the technology is just a flashy buzzword or another way to convey that a software is powerful. As we’ve heard again and again from our experts, though, AI is a set of technologies and capabilities that has transformative potential.
Misconception No. 3: All Technology Is Artificial Intelligence
Not all technology falls into the artificial intelligence bucket, but many emerging technologies do.
Specifically, AI might refer to machine learning technology, in which machines are able to process data and develop insights and analyses (just like a human would). Then, the technology applies this new knowledge to its future projects and interactions.
The benefit of AI is that it’s much more scalable than human learning. Humans might be able to manually tally microexpressions from a video chat to determine sales intent, but they will take just as long the next time they analyze those expressions. AI, on the other hand, gets quicker each time it gauges these inputs — the more it learns, the better it can automate.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not the semantics that’s important; it’s whether or not sellers actually see ROI. “Ultimately, what matters is what the solution can do for you,” says Nancy Nardin, founder of Smart Selling Tools. “Sellers want to know: What can this do for me, and how will it make an impact?”
Misconception No. 4: AI Can Only Help With Specific Aspects of Sales
It might seem that AI can only provide value in analyzing certain types of data, such as voice or facial recognition. But as Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power says, “There is AI for just about every task in sales. In most cases, whenever you have data, you have AI of some kind.”
For example, do you use a program such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator to help your sellers source and prioritize leads? That’s AI. What about a tool that helps you evaluate digital buyer behavior and analyze purchase intent? That’s also AI. Any time you use technology to analyze data, single out the most valuable insights, or change processes based on those insights, you’re using AI.
In a nutshell, the function of AI is to help salespeople and their managers better understand where the gold is in the database — and how to mine it. Selling is all about creating a better customer experience; the only way that’s possible is if sellers can give customers the insights they need to solve pain points quickly and effectively. That’s why sellers shouldn’t view AI as their competition, but instead as a trusted partner.
Want to learn more about taking advantage of AI in your sales process? Download our whitepaper below to learn how to prepare for AI in the future of sales.