While AI and machine learning have been near the top of the CTO’s digital transformation agenda for some time already, developments this year have catapulted them into the limelight – namely, the meteoric rise of Chat GPT and, just behind them, Google Bard. From writing books that are best sellers on Amazon to writing super popular tweets for influencers, and passing exams in top universities, the question we’re hearing from many of our clients is: what’s going to happen in the world of selling?
At SBR Consulting, we’re increasingly being asked about the optimal use of these tools in a high-performing sales organisation, and while there’s no one right answer, we’ve compiled some thoughts from our experience so far to serve as some inspiration.
Let’s start with the most widely anticipated advantage: saving sales teams time. It’s estimated that the average salesperson spends only 10% of their time selling (while the data suggests their perception is that they spend double that time actively selling – an interesting, but separate topic). The ability to automate certain repetitive, process-driven tasks, then, is a great way to efficiently delegate admin to increase time spent on revenue-generating activity. Point 1 to AI.
While there are many other projected advantages to using these technologies, there are also some potential downsides to consider. Let’s look at some pros and cons:
🚀 Preparation: One of the biggest advantages of AI and Chat GPT is the ability to automate time-intensive admin such as call prep, research, and call follow-up, by analysing CRM data, meeting notes and transcripts, summarising them, and pulling out the key points.
🎯 Personalisation: With just a couple of well-phrased prompts, salespeople can now tailor outreach emails to approach a much larger number of individual prospects per day, even taking into consideration previous contact (if connected to CRM data) to ensure the message is fully tailored. They can also use these tools to craft narratives to appeal to specific buyer personas that they want to target based on the language and type of messaging that is most likely to resonate with that demographic, even taking into consideration which platforms they’re likely to engage with and adjusting the messaging to conform with channel best practice.
🔌 Tool Integration: Integrations between existing automation platforms, such as the recent Zapier Chat GPT plugin, can help sales teams and sales operations go one step further with their efficiency; you can get Chat GPT to complete tasks in another app without even having to switch platforms. (Zapier have some great use cases on their site if you’re interested). And it’s not just Chat GPT: tools such as Sybill.ai summarise sales calls while salestack.ai and magicform.ai create bespoke chatbots to answer client queries, and even upsell them based on your website content and some optimisation. Not to mention our partners Glyphic.ai, who analyse vast amounts of data from your own recorded sales interactions and produce insights into your deal qualification, create effective follow-ups and prioritised action item lists, pull out critical milestones, and more.
There are so many other use cases we could speak about here; from Account-Based marketing (potentially solving the age-old question of how to successfully integrate marketing and sales outreach?!), to portfolio analysis for upsell opportunities, and from sales coaching to customer service workflow improvement, the possibilities truly are endless.
🚀 Over-reliance: Something that’s been more controversial is the ability to do mass outreach in a pseudo-personalised way, in a very short space of time. One concern is that if sales teams focus too much on using the tech to automate their roles, they lose focus on the human-to-human relationship, which is detrimental to long-term success. If we’re busy sending vast amounts of seemingly tailored emails at the expense of picking up the phone and creating a connection, then we’ll still be less successful than those including and prioritising the methods proven to be more effective; face to face communication ideally, or video calls and phone calls as a next-best alternative.
⚠️ Authenticity: These platforms are also unlikely to be able to replicate the nuanced approach that experienced salespeople bring to the table; while they can certainly help with lead generation and data analysis, there is still a need for human intuition and creativity when creating a sales pitch. Take this blog for example; ChatGPT did the initial research on itself and gave us a (slightly dry but informative) starting point, but I’m editing and adding my own voice as I go, to make it sound less robotic, and hopefully less like every other blog on the internet.
🤖 Quality: We’re now seeing systems within schools to detect ‘AI language’ that students may be using to write assignments. Similarly, B2B buyers and decision makers will start to tune in to the more generic, automated-sounding outreach and quickly disregard any communications they think may be mass- or auto-generated. With AI, the rule generally is “rubbish in, rubbish out” – to ensure that you’re getting high-quality outputs that don’t just sound like everyone else, it’s worth learning how to write prompts effectively and put time into crafting the outputs to get the best results. In a similar vein, the risk with tools that scrape the internet in real time for their responses, such as Google Bard, is that fake news or inaccurate information permeates our research without us realising if we’re relying on the outputs without critical oversight.
To leave you with our final thoughts (for now) on the topic: Artificial Intelligence isn’t ‘coming’, it’s here. As with other historical technological advancements, the technology itself likely won’t become the problem, it’s how we choose to use it that will determine how successful we are with it. We need to use it as A tool, not THE tool. That being said, the AI train has left the station, and we strongly recommend embracing it, lest we end up sounding like Ken Olsen, from Digital Equipment Corporation, who famously stated in 1977 “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”, or Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, predicting in 1995 that user demand for the internet would “catastrophically collapse” in 1996. Research AI, seek training, and think critically about how you could use it to streamline your current processes, increase efficiency within daily activities, and enhance the ‘human’ elements of sales.