by Andre Bourque

How CIOs are helping upgrade the way people sell

May 10, 2017
Artificial IntelligenceCRM SystemsEnterprise Applications

Sales and marketing execs are likely to push for any kind of technology that will improve their numbers, but they aren't the only members of the executive suite catching on to automation.

strategy marketing ts
Credit: Thinkstock

Every aspect of business is evolving to meet the growing demand for automation. The pressure on companies to reduce costs or increase profit margins has never been greater, and technology is one of the biggest drivers. 

As artificial intelligence (A.I.) technologies improve, more and more processes that used to take time and resources are completed quickly and at minimal cost. Companies are constantly evaluating what functions can leverage automation to increase output and save money. Processes like accounting, payroll and scheduling are just a few areas where these changes are happening.

One key area where tech executives are contributing to growth is through automating sales and marketing efforts — and that has been true for years. In a 1989 article on sales and marketing automation in the Harvard Business Review, Rowland T. Moriarty and Gordon S. Swartz wrote, “Investments in marketing and sales automation systems hold tremendous potential for productivity improvements. Marketing and sales costs average 15% to 35% of total corporate costs (not just production costs). So a focus on marketing and sales provides a welcome lever for boosting productivity.”

As IT and marketing begin to collaborate, the result will be significant improvements in efficiency and performance.

Prescriptive sales on the rise

Artificial intelligence is finding its way into sales departments in the form of prescriptive sales technologies. In the past, jobs that depended on high levels of human interaction have been a challenge for A.I. integration. Innovators in the sales technology space have begun to rethink its application, however, and are finding that A.I. can be a useful tool for increasing the output of sales teams.

Uzi Shmilovici, the founder and CEO of Base CRM, explains this shift: “Until recently sales technology was only useful for showing sales data and making probability forecasts that were often too broad to be actionable. When you leverage A.I. with the right data input, however, you can generate amazingly precise recommendations for improving sales tactics.”

Reports show that companies are quickly seeking out these prescriptive sales solutions, and that there will likely be an 118% increase in their use over the next three years.

Companies as big as eBay have begun to use A.I. for prescriptive sales, a sign that the technology has reached maturity and will begin to change the way companies approach their sales strategies. As a result, competition is heating up, and there are a number of companies aiming to demonstrate why their offerings can deliver the best predictions.

Executives adopting A.I. for CRM

Sales and marketing execs are likely to push for any kind of technology that will improve their numbers, but they are not the only members of the executive suite who are catching on to the usefulness of this technology. CEOs and CIOs are both beginning to catch on to the potential for leveraging A.I. in customer relationship management (CRM) and sales.

One of the top reasons is because these technologies are increasing visibility for what works in sales, illuminating why some departments or salespeople perform better than others. Consequently, it is much easier for them to standardize successful practices and roll them out for the entire company. It also helps benchmark performance better than arbitrary sales projections. Real data insights can help create better sales projections, which in turn produces more realistic budgetary road maps. This is significant, considering that research has shown that 93% of companies miss their sales forecast on an annual basis.

Measuring engagement

Previously, sales data was incomplete and, as a result, not insightful. That is why providers of CRM systems are increasingly designing for the end user, which increases adoption of their platforms and ultimately improves data capture. One survey found that over 50% of CRM efforts will fail without the right data because they will not be able to provide useful insights.

“You see lots of products jumping on the A.I. train, but at the end of the day, the insights will only be as good as the data collected,” Shmilovici says. “This starts with adoption by salespeople and continues by having an all-in-one solution. And companies who recognize this will reap the benefits in the not-so-distant future.”

As the technology improves, more and more companies are considering integrating A.I. into their sales and CRM strategies. Executives are beginning to see numerous benefits, especially when it improves the efficiency and success rates of their sales teams.

For those considering such a change, Shmilovici offers this advice: “Companies that want to play in the prescriptive analytics space will have to adopt consumer-grade interfaces. The data gathered from these seamless experiences will produce rich insights for sales leaders and enable them to make smarter decisions for their organizations.”

The hope is that these technologies will support other business functions and help companies do a better job of selling to their customers. This will be essential as consumers start to expect more digital engagement and the ways in which companies contact their customers evolve.