Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning show the potential to reduce the most time-consuming, manual tasks that keep sales teams away from spending more time with customers. Automating account-based marketing support with predictive analytics and supporting account-centered research, forecasting, reporting, and recommending which customers to upsell first are all techniques freeing sales teams from manually intensive tasks.
The Race for Sales-Focused AI & Machine Learning Patents Is On
CRM and Configure, Price & Quote (CPQ) providers continue to develop and fine-tune their digital assistants, which are specifically designed to help the sales team get the most value from AI and machine learning. Salesforces’ Einstein supports voice-activation commands from Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google. Salesforce and other enterprise software companies continue aggressively invest in Research & Development (R&D). For the nine months ended October 31, 2018, Salesforce spent $1.3B or 14% of total revenues compared to $1.1B or 15% of total revenues, during the same period a year ago, an increase of $211M according to the company’s 10Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The race for AI and machine learning patents that streamline selling is getting more competitive every month. Expect to see the race of sales-focused AI and machine learning patents flourish in 2019. The National Bureau of Economic Research published a study last July from the Stanford Institute For Economic Policy Research titled Some Facts On High Tech Patenting. The study finds that patenting in machine learning has seen exponential growth since 2010 and Microsoft had the greatest number of patents in the 2000 to 2015 timeframe. Using patent analytics from PatentSight and ipsearch, IAM published an analysis last month showing Microsoft as the global leader in machine learning patents with 2,075. The study relied on PatentSight’s Patent Asset Index to rank machine learning patent creators and owners, revealing Microsoft and Alphabet are dominating today. Salesforce investing over $1B a year in R&D reflects how competitive the race for patents and intellectual property is.
10 Ways Machine Learning Is Revolutionizing Sales
Fueled by the proliferation of patents and the integration of AI and machine learning code into CRM, CPQ, Customer Service, Predictive Analytics and a wide variety of Sales Enablement applications, use cases are flourishing today. Presented below are the ten ways machine learning is most revolutionizing selling today:
- AI and machine learning technologies excel at pattern recognition, enabling sales teams to find the highest potential new prospects by matching data profiles with their most valuable customers. Nearly all AI-enabled CRM applications are providing the ability to define a series of attributes, characteristics and their specific values that pinpoint the highest potential prospects. Selecting and prioritizing new prospects using this approach saves sales teams thousands of hours a year.
- Lead scoring and nurturing based on AI and machine learning algorithms help guide sales and marketing teams to turn Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), strengthening sales pipelines in the process. One of the most important areas of collaboration between sales and marketing is lead nurturing strategies that move prospects through the pipeline. AI and machine learning are enriching the collaboration with insights from third-party data, prospect’s activity at events and on the website, and from previous conversations with salespeople. Lead scoring and nurturing relies heavily on natural language generation (NLG) and natural-language processing (NLP) to help improve each lead’s score.
- Combining historical selling, pricing and buying data in a single machine learning model improves the accuracy and scale of sales forecasts. Factoring in differences inherent in every account given their previous history and product and service purchasing cycles is invaluable in accurately predicting their future buying levels. AI and machine learning algorithms integrated into CRM, sales management and sales planning applications can explain variations in forecasts, provided they have the data available. Forecasting demand for new products and services is an area where AI and machine learning are reducing the risk of investing in entirely new selling strategies for new products.
- Knowing the propensity of a given customer to churn versus renew is invaluable in improving Customer Lifetime Value. Analyzing a diverse series of factors to see which customers are going to churn or leave versus those that will renew is among the most valuable insights AI and machine learning is delivering today. Being able to complete a Customer Lifetime Value Analysis for every customer a company has provides a prioritized roadmap of where the health of client relationships are excellent versus those that need attention. Many companies are using Customer Lifetime Value Analysis as a proxy for a customer health score that gets reviewed monthly.
- Knowing the strategies, techniques and time management approaches the top 10% of salespeople to rely on to excel far beyond quota and scaling those practices across the sales team based on AI-driven insights. All sales managers and leaders think about this often, especially in sales teams where performance levels vary widely. Knowing the capabilities of the highest-achieving salespeople, then selectively recruiting those sales team candidates who have comparable capabilities delivers solid results. Leaders in the field of applying AI to talent management include Eightfold whose approach to talent management is refining recruiting and every phase of managing an employee’s potential. Please see the recent New York Times feature of them here.
- Guided Selling is progressing rapidly from a personalization-driven selling strategy to one that capitalized on data-driven insights, further revolutionizing sales. AI- and machine learning-based guided selling is based on prescriptive analytics that provides recommendations to salespeople of which products, services, and bundles to offer at which price. 62% of highest performing salespeople predict guided selling adoption will accelerate based on its ability rank potential opportunities by value and suggest next steps according to Salesforces’ latest State of Sales research study.
- Improving the sales team’s productivity by using AI and machine learning to analyze the most effective actions and behaviors that lead to more closed sales. AI and machine learning-based sales contact and customer predictive analytics take into account all sources of contacts with customers and determine which are the most effective. Knowing which actions and behaviors are correlated with the highest close rates, sales managers can use these insights to scale their sales teams to higher performance.
- Sales and marketing are better able to define a price optimization strategy using all available data analyzing using AI and machine learning algorithms. Pricing continues to be an area the majority of sales and marketing teams learn to do through trial and error. Being able to analyze pricing data, purchasing history, discounts are taken, promotional programs participated in and many other factors, AI and machine learning can calculate the price elasticity for a given customer, making an optimized price more achievable.
- Personalizing sales and marketing content that moves prospects from MQLs to SQLs is continually improving thanks to AI and machine learning. Marketing Automation applications including HubSpot and many others have for years been able to define which content asset needs to be presented to a given prospect at a given time. What’s changed is the interactive, personalized nature of the content itself. Combining analytics, personalization and machine learning, marketing automation applications are now able to tailor content and assets that move opportunities forward.
- Solving the many challenges of sales engineering scheduling, sales enablement support and dedicating the greatest amount of time to the most high-value accounts is getting solved with machine learning. CRM applications including Salesforce can define a salesperson’s schedule based on the value of the potential sale combined with the strength of the sales lead, based on its lead score. AI and machine learning optimize a salesperson’s time so they can go from one customer meeting to the next, dedicating their time to the most valuable prospects.
By Louis Columbus