by Anil Kaul, co-founder and CEO of Absolutdata
If you’ve been selling products or services for more than a few years knows, you know technology has changed the way salespeople connect with customers. The evolution began with the automation of simple processes, but over the last several years, sales technology has evolved by incorporating more sophisticated capabilities.
The most cutting-edge development today is the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into sales tech, which can provide a significant competitive edge. The sales teams that outperform peers recognize evolving technology early and adopt it to gain an edge.
Here are three stages of sales technology evolution and a brief look at how each has helped sales teams gain an advantage:
Level 1: Automation.
Sales technology runs on data, so automation is an important step since it makes it easier to collect customer information and performs mundane tasks so salespeople can turn their attention to strategy. Picture a typical salesperson’s workday, which may involve sending out 15 emails, making 15 phone calls, speaking to five prospects and receiving 5 email responses.
Each of those transactions delivers important data, but it’s a hassle for the salesperson to have to manually enter the information into the CRM system. A sales automation solution can capture vital information like the date and time of the contacts, email subject lines, etc. Sales automation creates an important record without requiring manual input from salespeople.
Level 2: Insight.
In the next evolutionary stage, sales technology provides insight from data and recommendations on how to proceed based on where buyers are in the customer journey. The data indicates where prospects are in the sales funnel, and the sales technology tool gives salespeople information that helps them make better decisions.
The insight stage is superior to old-school sales techniques that are based primarily on salespeople’s instincts and speculation on where the buyers are in the sales funnel. Interpersonal relationships and instincts are still important in sales, of course, but sales technology at the insight level has added a layer of science-based rigor with data that suggests which tactics are most effective.
Level 3: Roadmap.
At this emerging evolutionary stage, sales technology incorporates AI to chart out a path to success for salespeople. This type of sales solution doesn’t just automate tasks or make suggestions; it uses advanced analytics to identify behavioral cues and real-time signals within large datasets to lay out a path salespeople can follow to close deals.
With AI-enabled sales technology, predictive selling is now a reality. Data and analytics are combined to create forecasts and identify strategies. Sales professionals can more fully use their talents, creating strong ties with customers while sales technology helps them prioritize leads, make more relevant product recommendations and follow the path most likely to lead to a closed deal.
The sales technology evolution is ongoing, with tech solutions becoming more sophisticated every day, and early adopters gain the greatest advantage over their competitors. The sales teams that embraced automation early were able to redirect their focus from mundane tasks like manually entering sales data into CRM systems, thereby gaining more time to build customer relationships.
Sales teams that adopt technologies that yield insights also gain an edge: They receive information that augments their instincts, which helps improve their decision-making. But today, the greatest advantage is being gained by sales teams that deploy AI-enabled sales technologies. Instead of guidance based on backward-looking data, they are receiving a roadmap based on real-time data signals.
This latest evolutionary stage is still emerging, but it offers incredible potential. Rather than merely changing sales processes, it promises to transform the sales organization itself in a positive way. It helps individuals close more deals and helps sales managers identify the traits that make their best performers succeed so they can propagate those habits across the entire sales team.
By laying out a roadmap to success, the latest sales technology lets sales organizations combine data science and AI with the art of deal-making. It allows salespeople to focus on what they do best, building relationships, while giving them a way to respond to changing market conditions in real time. For these reasons, emerging AI-enabled sales technologies are the ultimate game-changer.
Co-founder and CEO of Absolutdata, Anil Kaul, has over 22 years of experience in advanced analytics, market research, and management consulting. He is very passionate about analytics and leveraging technology to improve business decision-making. Prior to founding Absolutdata, Anil worked at McKinsey & Co. and Personify. He is also on the board of Edutopia, an innovative start-up in the language learning space.