Guest post by Scott Miraglia
2019 is another year in an era that is seeing rapid-fire advancements in technology. That means there are more channels than ever before in which to appeal to potential customers. It’s an exciting time, but one with an undercurrent of anxiety. For example, according to a LinkedIn survey of B2B sales challenges in 2019, respondents cited such things as pipeline consistency and having more meaningful interactions with customers as their prime worries.
These are all valid concerns. What’s interesting is that trends we’re seeing right now are poised to alleviate this stress and solve many of these issues in one fell swoop—provided sales teams leverage these trends wisely and effectively. Below we list how.
AI and big data benefit sales
This first trend gets right to the heart of the 800-pound digital gorilla in the room: big data. This is much more than a simple buzz term or fleeting trend—it’s the overarching theme of information accumulation in today’s world. Human beings generate a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, and, needless to say, your typical sales team can’t manage that data and extract crucial insights from it on their own.
This is where artificial intelligence enters the picture. With advances in machine learning over the past few years we’ve seen AI go from being a sci-fi pipe dream to a real-world component of many sales and marketing solutions. There are AI-powered tools that can help sales and marketing teams do everything from schedule meetings (X.ai) to ad retargeting (Shoelace) to workflow automation (Troops) to A/B testing and website personalization (Convertize) to… well, you get the idea.
But AI powered big data solutions also help B2B sales teams in three fundamental ways:
1. Generating new leads
2. Allowing for the creation of personalized marketing campaigns
3. Guiding product pricing
To the first point, AI is facilitating lead generation because no longer do individuals have to sift through market research statistics, survey forms, email lists, and social media info for actionable insight into customer profiles. With so much new data coming in every day, AI shoulders the burden by dealing with many mundane tasks, which frees up salespeople to better develop initiatives to reach their target audience and generate leads.
AI can then further sift through these massive data lakes to glean insight into market price points, which will help companies set product prices. But AI trends further benefit sales teams to the point we’re now seeing it become an extension of the team. More on this below.
AI becomes a virtual sales department
2019 is poised to become the year when artificial intelligence evolves from being a handy tool to a bonafide sales team in its own right. Enter AI and, specifically, chatbots. This is a global market that’s ascending like a rocket, as chatbots are expected to be a 1.2 billion-dollar industry by 2025. Indeed, chatbots have been around for a couple years, but the reason they’re becoming integral to the sales strategy now is simple: people finally trust AI.
According to Forbes, a majority of both baby boomers and millennials actually approve of the customer service provided by chatbots. These little virtual assistants can answer most questions instantly, and, most crucially, they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week without a break.
The only question left is, are chatbots as helpful for B2B sales teams as they are in the consumer-facing world? Can they handle more nuanced and technical queries put forth by companies in the fields of information technology, software, manufacturing, and others? The answer is yes.
All chatbots use machine-learning algorithms to fuel their interactions, thus the more a chatbot interacts with a customer—in any field—the more effective it gets. Any small, medium, or large-sized B2B business with a solid CRM data-management tool in place might only need a few months to implement a customer-service-ready chatbot.
CRM goes 360
Above we mentioned how even a basic chatbot can handle complex customer interactions when it has access to well-managed CRM data. That’s where AI enters the picture yet again. Just like machine learning is powering chatbots, it’s also powering advanced CRM solutions as well, helping companies of all sizes to manage data that humans simply aren’t capable of.
But while sales teams now have a welcome assist from the aforementioned AI, the onus is still on people to turn all this data they accumulate into something useful. In other words, how deeply salespeople look into CRM data is going to determine how effective their strategies really are. How to do this involves going beyond sales forecasting and tracking interactions. It means gaining a single 360° view of customers across all channels. Doing so yields many advantages, such as:
– The ability to improve customer interaction and build better relationships
– More accurate customer segmentation
– The knowledge to provide better customer service based on buying habits
This is particularly vital for B2B operations, whose sales cycles are notoriously long. In the enterprise-facing world, it takes time to build a relationship with prospects and move them down the sales funnel. Being well-armed with comprehensive knowledge of a prospect’s interests and behaviors, as well as what channels they are using and when, puts your sales department in prime position to achieve the three goals listed above.
The most crucial lesson to take away from the points listed above is that of integration. These trends are facilitating the success of sales teams in today’s world—but only if the CRM in question is properly integrated. There’s an alarming report by Forbes that states many companies have data spread out across a whopping 35-different info-gathering systems. Not so surprisingly, these companies are unhappy with the results. The only way to solve the problem is to fully integrate your CRM, and let AI do the heavy lifting where it concerns big data.
Scott is the CEO of Elevation Marketing. Scott is dedicated to helping his talented teams develop unique and effective integrated marketing programs that help employees realize their full potential while serving up impressive business wins for clients.
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