Freeing up the sales force for selling, listening and automating with AI

by Greg Theriault
Republished from Silicon Angle, September 23, 2018

Sales strategy and the future of customer engagement is in my DNA. As we all see and know, agility, automation and artificial intelligence is changing the profession rapidly.

AI thought leader Rob Thomas, general manager for analytics at IBM Corp., spoke recently in Boston and New York City, including an interview on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE’s livestreaming studio. This slide below made me think about the future of leadership and how machines will help us be more productive. As Darwin predicted, we must adopt to survive and thrive.

Next week I’m flying from Boston to Inc.’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco to learn and explore how the company continues pushing the boundaries of how sales can help customers innovate — obviously beyond just sales force automation. Every year, the world’s most innovative sales and marketing minds come to Dreamforce. I’ll be learning about leveraging how AI can speed up 1) forecasting, 2) upselling and cross-selling, 3) lead scoring 4) managing for performance and more around better customer experience.

new report last week from my firm SiliconANGLE Media shows how machine learning delivers big business benefits. Much of the focus on artificial intelligence is on how it can help to automate tasks normally performed by humans, but most organizations are adopting the tech primarily for its business benefits.

I’m fascinated by the comprehensive suite of sales focused applications in the ever-changing social/customer relationship management/AI portfolio landscape. New innovative solutions around sales performance management, solutions for managing sales content, delivering sales training, social selling and coaching, seller analytics and, most importantly, solutions to allow reps to deliver a richer experience for buyers.

As my Forrester friend Mary Shea writes in her recent report, “B2B marketing and sales leaders to meet the needs of buyers who expect sophisticated, consultative and technology-enabled salespeople.” Welcome to the challenging world of enterprise sales and customer experience.

A recent report from Gartner report also states, “Today’s most valued currency is information – specifically, information that is going to help make these massive B2B purchases easier for the customer. Sales reps should now think of themselves as ‘buying Sherpas,’ actively guiding customers along the difficult buying journey. We’re seeing a redefinition of sales, where sales reps who are able to connect customers to helpful information are better positioned to become more important to the success of the organization over time.”

Just as buyers are changing, the customer experience has also reached the top of every chief executive’s agenda, and many of today’s sales systems are incomplete and must change. Businesses want choice. It’s clear the time has arrived for reinventing CRM with AI. The customer experience of your firm dictates the expectations and determines how customers interact with your firm. Customers want businesses to know their preferences, anticipate their needs and act accordingly. With AI, it will get more personalized to help drive growth and productivity.

Speaking of customer experience, theCUBE recently did an exclusive interview with Tiffani Bova, an author and global, customer growth, sales and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, who discussed her excellent new book and her 10 paths to growth. In the past, she has written about what she has coined the “Seller’s Dilemma”: “One of my big ‘aha moments’ was discovering that the greatest innovation challenge for providers today may be in finding the means to reinvent the sales organization and go-to-market model to meet new market demands, while at the same time they continue to protect and defend existing customers and deliver net new revenue, not necessarily what their next big product launch was going to be.”

Any change in sales technology has a direct impact on performance expectations and has a ripple effect on the entire selling force, including direct, indirect, inside and digital. That’s why we must change fast. I believe that not using AI or automation is the new Seller’s Dilemma.

I’d like to continue the conversation on Tuesday, Sept. 25, when we will be filming a live event on with Conga, whose AI-powered suite of solutions helps companies digitally transform by automating and optimizing their documents. Please come by the company’s party at the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company in San Francisco, where you can indulge your curiosity, experience mesmerizing music and be dazzled by the wonders of digital transformation and talk AI and sales.