A recent report highlighted the biggest challenges to selling in 2017. With 49% of the vote, salespeople selected ‘spending too much time on non-sales activities’ as the most significant work challenge.Admin is clearly taking up too much of salespeople’s time. We’re constantly reminded that salespeople are only making money when they’re selling, and yet we also want salespeople to keep better records, research their customers, and make sure they have the context behind every pitch.
So how do we balance these conflicting needs? Give it 5 years, and the answer could be AI.
How could AI help salespeople?
In case you’ve missed it, there’s a robot revolution on the horizon and in some industries that’s going to mean huge job losses. While there is some danger for certain types of sales positions, for the most part AI brings with it a world of opportunities.
If you’re wondering how AI could help with sales, you might be thinking of the wrong kind of robot. This isn’t like Transformers. It’s more like Siri, or Alexa or the AI that tells Netflix what kind of show you’d like to watch next – it’s called machine learning. This article from Digitalist Magazine explains how AI could contribute to sales:
Being able to sift through and analyze years of customer data to pinpoint trends and tailor your actions is something we’ve been working toward for a long time. Currently, this task tends to fall to sales personnel. But with machine learning, your advanced cloud CRM solution can learn over time to forecast and score deals with greater accuracy, freeing up sales team members to focus on building and nurturing relationships that add value to the business. Sales reps will more easily reach their numbers, and managers will see teams meeting and exceeding revenue goals. Machine learning offers the ability to simplify your organization by leveraging all the data you’ve collected.
AI could prompt you to make contact with a customer, without having to set reminders. It could give you definitive deal scores, leaving you to focus on the deals most likely to close. One thing it cannot do is have the customer relationship for you – so worry not, your job is safe.
This article from the Salesforce blog gives a real insight into just how a virtual assistant could be used in the sales environment.
Within five years, basically every salesperson will have an intelligent assistant that will use intimate computing to deliver rich context around every step of the sales process, from initial contact to closing…
While today’s sales assistant is a device, such as a smartphone or a laptop, within 10 years it will become something you can talk to, similar to the Amazon Echo. Intelligence will be embedded into a system that lives in the office. You’ll come into your work environment and say, “Show me my prospects. Is this a good day to call company X? How is their stock doing today?” It will be as if you have someone whispering real-time sales intelligence in your ear.
Imagine that. It’s a tempting prospect, isn’t it? At some point in the not too distant future, AI could help salespeople save time and make more money. Sadly it’s not here just yet.
What can I do right now to increase my selling time?
While we wait for the techies to save us, we have a few quick pointers to help reduce unnecessary work right now.
- Have you got too many tools? If you’ve got one tool to manage your contacts, another for your calendar and yet another for your email, you’ve got too many tools. A good CRM should be able to manage all of that for you in one place. Other tools, such as your Sales Enablement Platform and social media manager, should integrate with your CRM. Once you’ve narrowed down the number of tools you need, make sure everyone who needs it has access on all their devices.
- Is everyone working together? Sometimes the lone wolf sales mentality means that either several people end up doing the same work without realizing it or else no one is doing the work at all, causing delays further down the line. Instill a culture of teamwork across departments to make the most of all your staff.
- Is all of the work yours to do? Do, Ditch, Delegate. There are plenty of jobs you have to do yourself, but some people add things to their list that just don’t really need doing, while other jobs might be better managed by someone else. For example, salespeople who spend time preparing collateral to take to presentations are carrying out a job that really belongs to the marketing department. Marketing are better equipped to prepare the resources, and sales should be spending their time selling.
- Do you need a Sales Enablement department? A Sales Enablement team could take some of the workload from both sales and marketing and expand the Sales Enablement activities to help accelerate sales, giving you more time to sell, more tools to sell with and more people to sell to. Even without a dedicated department, a Sales Enablement tool can help your sales and marketing departments work more closely together, and will save time preparing presentations and collating resources.
We’d love to hear from you! What are the things you spend most of your non-selling time doing?