AI: Smart-use cases to supercharge your sales operation

Written by Robin Hoyle

So, you want to harness the power of Generative AI in your sales organisation. But where do you start?

When thinking of how and where an organisation might use AI to supercharge their sales operation, look at these three areas of activity which provide immediate opportunities.

1. Call planning

Planning each call is pretty important. Certainly, it is better to invest in a little time planning than lots of time working out why a sale was lost!

AI can help planning by summarising data about past contacts, providing data about your company’s interaction with similar companies in similar industries or territories; providing information about people who, potentially, may provide endorsements or references relevant to your contact.

Importantly, by looking at your sales process and what happened when your organisation was most successful, AI could suggest possible objectives for the call in the context of the stage of the relationship between seller and buyer. This will help the salesperson to sculpt the planned conversation towards achieving that objective. 

2. Segmentation

One of the efficiencies of using AI is to automate some customer interactions within your organisation. In one company I worked with, salespeople routinely travelled hundreds of miles to visit customers, in order to complete their monthly or quarterly re-order. This is the ideal type of transaction that could be relatively easily automated using AI, or undertaken differently by, for example, inside sales or customer service teams with data provided to them in an accessible form by AI.

By freeing up that field sales resource, we now need to think where it can be most profitably and usefully redeployed. That’s where customer segmentation plays a part. Understanding the clients or prospects where growth is most likely or where generating significant value will require more sales resources, is a crucial part of the effective leadership of a sales function. But which companies are likely to grow? Which present the best strategic match for your business?

AI can help answer those questions – especially if it is based on your own customer data. The problem you may face is: Where is that customer data? For many organisations, that data lives inside the CRM system. I have asked audiences at several events at which I have spoken a simple question:

“How many of you have data in your CRM which you consider to be complete and accurate in relation to your customers and prospects?”

So far, from audiences that now include many hundreds of senior sales leaders, only two or three hands have ever been raised!

With all technology, Garbage In, Garbage Out or GIGO, is still true. With AI, it is fundamental.

Before using your CRM data to inform an AI tool – whether built into the CRM, or simply using data extracted from the CRM – that data needs to be clean, updated and accurate. Until then, customer segmentation will be based primarily on gut feel, supported by incomplete data interpreted to support a decision which has already been made. AI is useless at gut feel and instinct – that is one of its undoubted strengths!

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3. Industry trend analysis

Generative AI tools are already pretty good at summarising trends and industry specific data. You can start this process today, using existing GPTs available for free.
However, the real competitive advantage is not on using the same data as everyone else. The value is created by using that data and adding the secret sauce of your own, proprietary industry insights. 

It might mean you have to get a considerable amount of information and expertise out of the heads of your people, and it might mean you spending time checking and validating that information. But your organisations memory should be your secret weapon in unleashing the power of AI to create differentiation and competitive advantage. It might take time, but it’s worth the effort.  

Where to start?

If you’re new to AI and want to experience what’s happening, don’t worry, you are in the same place as many sales organisations. Very few organisations have gone beyond the experimentation phase.

My top tips are:

a) Choose your use cases first

What problem do you want AI to solve? What does the future look like once the problem is solved? Is that a good place to be? What are the short-term goals you need to achieve to get there? Can AI help to achieve those goals? Don’t know? Experiment!

This simple process means you are working to achieve something rather than ‘having a play’. Having a play might be fun and I’d recommend you do that as well – but plan where you are wanting to get to before you start.

b) AI as a co-pilot for sellers

Socialise the use of AI with your sales team by reinforcing that AI is an assistant, not the boss. Give space for your people to practice prompting and to share the prompts that generate outputs that are useful.

c) Sort out your data

The true value of AI for organisations will be when it is using the data from within your organisation alongside that which can be uncovered from the public domain. Remember GIGO!

d) Practice using AI to spot and summarise trends and patterns

This might be in your territory, your industry or in the industries relevant to your key customers and prospects. Start with the publicly available and accessible data to understand how useful these digests could be (and how much better they would become if you could add in your own data and insights).

Uncover how to create a seamless integration of AI into your sales operations. Download the whitepaper.

e) Analyse your products and services and those of your competitors

Using publicly available data will mean this is, at best, a surface exercise, but it may help by indicating potential differentiators or unusual capabilities you have and that your current competitors cannot match. Again, using your own data alongside the generally available information will add huge value.

f) Involve your sellers

If your focus is on efficiency – freeing up seller time by automating routine or boring tasks – then ask them what tasks they would want to automate. There is a lot of suspicion, fear and misinformation about what AI could do. Inevitably, those who feel powerless in the face of its advance will resist and may even sabotage its introduction. If they’re not on board at the start – and recognise how it will help them – then getting them on board later will be a much bigger, and potentially impossible job.

Key takeaways

AI won’t meet all the needs that your salespeople – and their customers – have. You will need to experiment and build your own use cases – with the people at the sharp end of your sales process and your customer’s buying cycle.

These steps – taken as a recipe for starting or extending your AI journey will enable you to work smartly and effectively to use AI in a way which enhances the skills and capabilities of your sellers. As your people’s capability in using AI to solve day-to-day problems expands, the use cases which offer you the most return on the time invested will become apparent. 


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