It’s no surprise that the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is a highly followed topic within workplace disruption. In 2019, we’re taking a closer look at how AI will drive different functions within an organization. We are starting with sales teams, and how AI can drive sales enablement.

AI and the sales function

Artificial intelligence has redefined many industries and roles. It is a vital aspect of the next iteration of the modern workplace, from minimizing the labor-shortage gap in the agriculture industry to helping developers build faster and better in the software development industry. It is instrumental in providing enterprises with data and insights on how to offer a better employee experience.

AI has the ability to increase productivity. It allows for unprecedented precision in decision-making while freeing workers to focus on activities that are vital to their job. It makes industries more sustainable by eliminating processes that are redundant to the growth of an organization and re-allocating human potential to the areas that matter.

While it’s important to explore how AI is disrupting industries, it’s imperative to explore how AI is changing the roles within a company. This allows us to account for the trends that are taking place right now, rather than in the near future. One function that will benefit from the integration of AI in their day-to-day activities, is the sales role.

The sales function within an organization can include many roles. From Account Executives and Relationship Managers to Consultants and Technical Implementation Specialists, they are your front-facing roles that contribute directly to the bottom line. As we approach 2019, sales teams can optimize their results by incorporating AI in the following four processes.

1. Sales and marketing collaboration process will be closer than ever before:

Sales and marketing have traditionally played two separate roles in an organization. Marketing was responsible for driving demand, and sales was responsible for the closing of a sale/deal.

As companies further incorporate AI into sales and marketing tools, the goals and targets between the two functions will become more interconnected. These tools are making it easier to be transparent across the functions, which allows for a better bi-directional communication flow.

For example, companies like Hubspot or Salesforce are allowing companies to capture more information when a contact enters a workflow. Gone are the days where marketing passes on leads to sales, and sales puts in a formal request for marketing support.

Marketing teams can now plan more precise campaigns, being responsible for planning and executing while sales consult on persona targeting. Sales teams can better service accounts while marketing provides any additional collateral or support needed on an ongoing basis.

As the two functions remove barriers to their collaboration process, they can further align their efforts with organizational goals. Rather than operating on their own, they will learn to succeed together as a unit.

2. Sales force automation (SFA) will be streamlined with less:

Sales force automation (not to be mistaken with Saleforce” automation) is the term used to describe the usage of software in a company to automate the collection, analysis, and distribution of data in a sales pipeline. In recent years, companies have been adopting a wide variety of SFA tools. Large enterprises are now employing a possibility of more than 60 sales technologies.

Tools that were made to help salespeople have had the opposite effect. The top complaints now are on how the tools do not match the way that sales teams want to work. There are often too many manual processes involving data entry, and the plethora of tools begin to distract more than they help.

In fact, one of the biggest underlying causes of enterprise productivity loss is the addition of excess applications, leading to a rise in context-switching in the workplace. As employees are required to navigate between numerous platforms and applications, the one thing to focus on in 2019 is to think about how to do more with less.

To increase the adoption of SFA tools, organizations will need to consider leveraging existing employee habits rather than asking employees to create new ones to fit each additional tool.

3. Sales performance management (SPM) will be based on accurate forecasting:

There’s an art and science to motivating sales teams. In the past, sales leader determine the performance management structures based on their previous experiences or current industry best practices. With the advancement of AI, we can now take a deeper look into SPM. We can look past incentive compensation, and into the planning of accurate forecasting in order to help sales teams reach those targets.

From territory structures to better quotas, managers can tweak the compensation plans to better hit the sales targets as a way to motivate their sales team. The technology that can enable this type of predictive behavior will come from machine learning. Eventually, AI will be able to detect risk and forecasting anomalies from data within your corporation that humans may not be able to, Melissa Hilbert of Gartner explains.

When sales forecasts are more accurate, sales teams are better motivated. They can rely on a higher level of certainty when it comes to quota fulfillment, rather than an increase in incentive compensation itself.

4. Sales enablement will rely on streamlined workflows:

According to Salesforce’s State of Sales report, salespeople only spend 34% of their time selling. They spend the majority of their time on non-sales activities that produce what we call the sales productivity gap. Many spend this time preparing proposals, searching for the right content to send, scheduling follow-up meetings, and other administrative activities. 

To further enable sales team to focus their time back on selling activities, companies are starting to take a closer look into the activities that are taking up valuable time. AI can already help alleviate some of the high-volume, low-value tasks through automating the workflows.

Activities like meeting scheduling can be done in seconds rather than tens of minutes. There are no more going back and forth between invitees to agree on a timeslot.

It’s time that we appreciate the unique differences of an employee in a sales role, and leverage them to optimize results in the new year. Each trend proposes its own new process that can further enable salespeople. What your organization needs will depend on the current sales structure and sales technology that you have in place.

Not sure where to start? Our clients typically start with automating administrative tasks, to give immediate time back to sales teams.

Enabling sales teams with Zoom.ai

Zoom.ai is an automated assistant that lives inside your company’s chat platform. It integrates seamlessly between your chat platform and enterprise applications while leveraging existing employee habits to increase adoption.

With Zoom.ai, employees can offload meeting scheduling and preparation, searching for files or information, managing the CRM, and generating standard documents — all through chat. Powered by natural language processing and machine learning, Zoom.ai understands employee asks and intents and automate tasks within seconds.

Download our new eBook on Enabling Sales Productivity to learn more on the subject.

Ready to talk to a human? Book a demo today to learn about how Zoom.ai can help your sales team get back to selling in 2019.