How AI is helping to speed up the sales cycle amid Covid-19

Many in the business world may believe that, amid the pandemic, the sales cycle is becoming longer and more arduous, with a lowered chance of success. The economic doom and gloom forecasts naturally lead us towards this kind of thinking, as we continue to be fed stories of plummeting consumer confidence and the impact of the virus on GDP and industry growth.

However, the lockdowns across countries have shown that many jobs can be done well, regardless of where workers are physically based. For sales teams that are now working remotely, the Covid-19 crisis has provided an opportunity to focus on essentials, free from the distraction of travel: closing deals. That said, they remain under pressure to meet their numbers amid a recession.

To do so, they need to move deals faster than ever before, and many sales leaders are beginning to embrace new tools and technologies that allow them to increase efficiency. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in.

Debunking the myths surrounding AI

While across society, AI may elicit fears of job loss and dehumanisation, in the sales world it’s moving reality in the opposite direction.

The first, and most important, part of the sales cycle is the discovery phase, where the salesperson aims to understand the buyer’s pain points, priorities and goals so they can effectively sell to them. This phase sets the trajectory of the deal, and is critical to securing revenue. However, many sales teams often find this process long and arduous as they don’t have the tools in place to quickly address the prospect’s actual challenge.

To avoid this, salespeople need to quickly build rapport with prospects, and have a discovery call checklist that will increase the chances of sales conversions. This also involves coming prepared with valuable information on the prospect’s industry that demonstrates expertise and understanding from the salesperson.

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AI-fuelled sales engagement platforms (SEPs) help bring this clarity to sales operations. Designed to combine with existing workflows, they provide the salesperson with a centralised platform for all their prospect’s data, automated sales sequences and access to a digital coach that surfaces relevant information about the prospect and their business challenge in real time.

AI is a key string to a salesperson’s bow, allowing them to drive more meaningful conversations and build stronger relationships with prospects and customers while automating, augmenting and supercharging the way sales teams work to improve productivity. This also reduces time spent on tasks that provide no value-add to the business.

It’s a relationship business

It’s critical that salespeople foster real relationships with their prospects and that they truly understand what makes them tick to make deals happen.

This requires going beyond the cold call and instead adopting a personalised, human approach. AI supports the salesperson in providing this by using predictive analysis, along with data collated on the customer and previous sales cycles, to determine the best personalised journey to take a prospect on.

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This could be a recommendation on the best time to send an email, or guidance on specific messaging that would work well for a particular type of customer. These targeted recommendations help the salesperson to find and close more deals, faster, and keep their customers for longer.

AI can even be used as a personal coach for salespeople on calls with prospects by surfacing tactics that have worked with similar clients on past calls, such as highlighting a particular product feature or prompting the rep to talk less and listen more, all in real time.

An efficient AI tool brings together intelligent sales enablement, progressive automation that streamlines tasks, and helps sales reps conduct productive meetings and execute the perfect follow up.

Automating the mundane

Salespeople want to engage prospects at the right time and in the right way. They don’t want to spend time logging activities, navigating back and forth to schedule a time to speak, or updating prospect records with new contact information.

AI and ML-fused solutions work to take care of those mundane, yet necessary, tasks for sales reps. And by extracting, processing and learning from massive amounts of sales data, they can analyse it at scale and generate the insights needed for salespeople to spend the time doing what they do best: selling.

It’s time to move past the unfounded fear that AI will replace sales reps, and agree that it enables salespeople to become better at their job. Power tools didn’t take the jobs of construction workers, they made those builders more productive and efficient, and AI is the same. It optimises a salesperson’s time so they can go from one customer meeting to the next, dedicating their time to the most valuable prospects.

Businesses who are yet to embrace the power of AI in their sales team need to catch up fast, or risk being left behind when it comes to customer service, team productivity and results.

Written by Tom Castley, vice-president of sales – EMEA at Outreach

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