Artificial intelligence isn’t a job-taker, it’s a value-driven gift that keeps giving, especially for sales-driven industries.
For some, artificial intelligence (AI) is still an intimidating concept. When a successful businessman like Elon Musk asserts that “AI is more dangerous than nukes,” people envision a future rooted in post-apocalyptic science fiction. Other, less dire futurists merely claim that fast-learning AI will replace traditional human jobs. Neither outcome could be further from the truth.
In fact, we’ll respond with a popular meme inspired by The Matrix: “What if we told you ... that AI lets us be more human?”
The right AI for the right job
First, there are many kinds of AI; we should clarify what kind we mean. We aren’t talking about social media chatbots or digital assistants like Siri or Alexa. Although automated — and helpful at times — these tools aren’t designed for true learning beyond basic pattern recognition.
Things get much more interesting as AI functions become more complex. When we give AI the ability to learn, adapt, and interpret large data-sets in real time, we create AI solutions that allow humans to focus on activities that are better suited to humans, such as intuition, interaction, and engagement. This can be particularly advantageous in sales environments.
We recently helped a technology client create an AI tool for their sales support team. Sales representatives used to send all product-oriented questions to subject-matter experts via email. Sales support representatives would then spend large amounts of time scouring product datasheets to answer questions like, “which computer has the fastest processor?” or “which laptop has the largest display?” This process was inefficient, to say the least. Information could be inaccurate, or incomplete, and gathering it could take days.
This system could not deliver a consistent, quality customer experience, and it doesn’t take a marketing degree to know that poor customer experiences don’t translate well to sales.
The solution? Let AI handle it.
After working with the client to vet suppliers and recommending a solution based on our findings, we uploaded more than 85 percent of their product information to a text-based machine-learning system. Sales representatives could receive answers from the AI in seconds, and the AI itself learned from every interaction, improving its overall performance steadily over time.
“Wait,” you might be thinking, “isn’t this just a fancy chatbot?” Well, yes, if you only look at functionality. But empowered with comprehensive product information and machine learning (ML), this AI delivers meaningful results.
For sales representatives and their customers, who expect instant gratification from all services, response times of days or hours turned into minutes and seconds. The AI delivered information needed to execute sales far more quickly, and gave upper management deeper insight into the customer journey by providing consistent, personalized information. Positive performance translated into a 4 percent rise in sales across two quarters. When you weigh the perks against the problems, the advantage is easy to see.
AI enables actionable insight
Frankly, there are just some things humans can’t do as well as AI—things like processing large amounts of data. Our increased reliance on data is one of the reasons we developed computers in the first place.
By letting AI take the reins when it comes to data processing, we free up more time and energy for what human do best: innovate and engage. More than any other species on Earth, we excel at deriving actionable insights from multiple streams of information. We’re built for customer-facing interactions.
For example, let’s construct a hypothetical situation using our real-life technology client. Imagine that AI uncovered that customers frequently ask about laptops with specific processing power, only to be redirected toward high-powered desktops that meet their needs. From this, our client could realize that there’s a demand for faster processors and more powerful laptops, leading to improved product lineups and marketing strategies tailored to meet that demand, even targeting those exact customers.
With insights derived from AI, sales teams can improve and sustain lead generation, price optimization, conversion, sales forecasting, and more—all because they are closer to their customer base than ever before.
The future of AI is efficient
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes when AI gets involved. The fuel for that innovation, however, is better time efficiency. After all, time is money.
Just as our technology client streamlined its support process, other companies can get more from every minute with AI sales tools. According to a recent Accenture study, AI will play a critical role in how entire countries improve labor productivity. It projects that labor productivity in the United States will improve up to 35 percent by 2035.
We don’t get to those numbers by losing jobs. We get to those numbers by getting more from the jobs we have, using those qualities that make us most human—creativity, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and high-level cognition—alongside our growing technical prowess.