How AI Is transforming B2B sales

How AI Is transforming B2B sales

When it comes to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, the impacts of emerging technologies are plentiful. The internet of things is changing how companies interact with consumers, AI is curating retail experiences, and 3D printing is helping to usher in industry 4.0 just to name a few.

But business-to-business (B2B) companies are quickly catching up. Artificial intelligence is going to make B2B sales teams more successful and committed to excellence than ever. Below is a look at a few of the tools and intelligence-gathering techniques AI has unlocked for B2B companies, and why they’ll humanize rather than mechanize the sales process.

Better contact with higher-quality leads

Research compiled by Harvard Business Review on the subject of artificial intelligence in sales indicated substantial potential savings. Companies that utilize AI could increase their successful customer conversions by 50%, reduce the cost of pursuing leads by up to 60% and lower call times by up to 70%.

Why the substantial difference? It’s because AI can help B2B marketing experts make decisions based on which targets are likeliest to respond to different promotional tactics, pricing and marketing campaigns. In other words, AI can help bridge the gap between sales and marketing by providing actionable insights based on past interactions, market trends, in-house and third-party customer metrics, and a host of other data points.

A similar body of research from McKinsey supports this: as much as 47% of all sales-related tasks may be susceptible to automation shortly, depending on how quickly natural language detection develops. Historically, it was a salesperson’s job to gather information about customers to sell a product or service. Now, salespeople need to be minor data scientists in their own right.

Salespeople need to be familiar with several channels and analytics platforms to help gather, interpret and act on relevant consumer insights — including social media interactions and content traction, internet traffic, page bounce rates and much more. AI is a sales team’s helping hand through the jungle of data that is omnichannel selling.

The importance of salespeople hasn’t diminished here, even as lots of the automatable tasks fall away from their to-do lists. If anything, the presence of excellent salespeople will be even more keenly felt in a world where customers and clients have access to mobile apps, cloud platforms and self-service tools.

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Automated customer account management

Customer service that’s always there when you need it, but gets out of your way when you don’t, is a concept every consumer can get behind. B2B companies can use AI to distinguish themselves based on the quality and outcome of their customer service interactions. This is especially true when there are recurring orders, shipping, uptime, outages and general inquiries to field at all hours of the day and night.

For instance, chatbots use increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence to act as always-on digital assistants and perform basic tasks for customers, including account inquiries, order tracking and reordering.

Account managers can focus on the bigger picture instead of answering FAQs all day, but they also benefit from AI tools that can elevate prospects who begin interacting with your brand through automated channels. These people might benefit from a nudge from a salesperson.

In addition to using AI and natural language detection to identify opportunities with new contacts, AI can also trigger retention strategies with existing ones. It can help determine which discounts or offers will help your clients sign up again, based on their histories and other data points, and generate offer letters or emails in advance of renewal.

Risk management and quality management

Not surprisingly, artificial intelligence can be an important risk management tool. For instance, one type of risk all salespeople know too well is the potential of losing a client.

There are some commercial applications already available, like Nudge, that use machine learning to recommend actions based on the health of customer accounts, online activity, number of contacts and other signifiers.

Maybe it sounds like an impersonal way to manage a relationship, but that feeling won’t last long when you realize the benefits. It’s like having an extra account strategist who knows what’s worth knowing and delivers sound advice based on it.

There are lots of other ways AI can be of help in fine-tuning the training and approach taken by sales representatives. Another tool, People.ai, is designed to collect activity from the sales funnel and apply behavioral analytics to determine which representative behaviors are likely to lead to success.

Something like this offers a way to help solve bottlenecks, thanks to intelligence-gathering on which parts of the sales process take the longest, which words or phrases come up regularly, the number of steps taken or the amount of emails sent during correspondence.

AI CRM tools can help managers learn more about the tone and general quality of the sales experience, and update their training and customer experience accordingly.

Some artificial intelligence tools can even create personality profiles for prospective customers, including insights from Salesforce, LinkedIn and other platforms, and then generate appropriate email templates. It’s yet another way to add timeliness and authenticity to how you interact with customers and prospects, as well as make successes more visible and trainable.

Artificial intelligence and the future of sales

We’re not even done.

AI can automatically schedule meetings between two or more parties to eliminate the tedium of email threads about scheduling. Other AI tools provide access to real-time dynamic pricing based on customer insights, current market trends, supply levels and much more.

As we suggested above, the removal of tedious tasks and intelligence-gathering processes from your salespeople’s lists of daily responsibilities is a feature, not a bug. That’s why you should make their limited time with your clients, customers and prospects as fruitful as possible.

It’s also important to find fresh ways to honor the salespeople who manage to go above and beyond in the name of real customer service versus plain old account management.

Why? Because if robots are doing the management part for us, it means the rest of the relationship should get a bit more human — if we’re doing our jobs right.

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