AI in Sales - the What, How and When - and is your Job Safe?

Posted 20th Mar 2018

You may not be aware, but chances are you have already interacted with artificial intelligence (AI) during the early stages of an online shopping experience. People are already taking part in the sales AI revolution without even knowing it. Chatbots and virtual assistants are permeating every aspect of our online lives and although sales solutions are still in their infancy, companies are already starting to take advantage of the huge potential that’s on offer. A Harvard Business Review study predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be via AI and computer, with users/customers never having to communicate with a human.

IPsoft, an automation specialist software company, have developed Amelia, a virtual agent that can handle 27,000 conversations by parsing natural language, understanding simple customer questions and replying in several languages. Salesforce have already launched Cloud Einstein, a solution that examines CRM data to determine the differences between closed deals and lost deals, predicting the best prospective leads and identifying where and when a deal can be closed.

Ocado implemented Google Cloud Platform, moulded by their Ocado Technology team, to implement a machine learning and AI system that utilises natural language processing to scan and analyse emails as they pour into the customer service team. The software reads every email, creates appropriate tags and gives each email a priority score, enabling the humans in customer services to deal with emails in the order that provides the best customer experiences. Ocado have been voted top for customer service by Which? Magazine for five consecutive years and are the world’s biggest online-only retailer. AI and machine learning are working well for Ocado and have improved sales by providing an enhanced customer service experience.

Chatbots are revolutionising the way customers interact with organisations online. Through a chat interface, chatbots can qualify leads, answer simple questions, respond instantly, be available twenty-four hours a day and they cost considerably less than a human employee. Through machine learning, chatbots are able to learn and adapt as they increase the number of interactions they have and the more data they receive. Data-driven sales teams utilising AI and machine learning are finding the sales cycle is significantly reduced. Having the initial data processing work undertaken by a super-effective computer programme allows sales teams to start the sales process almost at the proposal stage.

AI is also allowing customer relationships to grow and develop on a deeper and more meaningful level than ever before. The most profitable clients can be nurtured, with time being better apportioned based on client needs and return on investment.

Virtual agents, chatbots, and natural language processing are just the start of the AI revolution, but the future of the sales job look secure for the moment. AI and machine learning is already here, but rather than usurping sales roles, they are supporting, enhancing and providing insights that humans would have taken days or weeks to find. Some tasks may never be taken by robots - strategic planning, people management, and face-to-face meetings - all need the empathy of a real human and would be tough for a computer programme to emulate. People all too often fear the rise of the robots, maybe instead we should embrace the incredible benefits they bring and allow them to enhance our working world.

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