Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping companies boost lead volume, close rate, and overall sales performance.
That’s because this technology can automate and augment much of the sales process. As a result, you're free to focus on what matters: revenue.
It's why sales leaders expect their teams’ adoption of AI for sales to grow 155% by 2020 , according to Salesforce. Salesforce also found that high-performing sales teams are 4.9X more likely to use AI than others.
AI is a big deal for B2C and B2B sales.
But what is AI exactly?
And how can every sales organization actually use it to close more deals?
This article is here to help.
At Marketing AI Institute, we’ve spent years researching and applying AI. Since 2016, we've published more than 400 articles on the subject. And we've published stories on 50+ AI-powered vendors with more than $1 billion in total funding. We’re also tracking 1,500+ sales and marketing AI companies with combined funding north of $6.2 billion.
This article leans on that expertise to demystify artificial intelligence and show you how to use AI for sales. It's for every salesperson, sales leader, ormarketing professional who works on sales enablement.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Ask 10 different experts what artificial intelligence is, and you'll get 10 different answers. A good definition comes from Demis Hassabis, CEO of DeepMind, an AI company that Google bought.
Hassabis calls artificial intelligence the "science of making machines smart." Today, we can teach machines to be like humans. We can give them the ability to see, hear, speak, write, and move.
Your smartphone has tons of AI technology. This includes facial recognition that unlocks your phone with your face (AI that sees). They also include voice assistants (AI that hears and speaks). And, don't forget, predictive text (AI that writes).
Other types of artificial intelligence systems even give machines the ability to move, like you see in self-driving cars.
Your favorite services, like Amazon and Netflix, use AI to offer product recommendations.
And email clients like Gmail even use AI to automatically write parts of emails for you.
In fact, you probably use AI every day, no matter where you work or what you do.
"Machine learning" powers AI's most impressive capabilities. Machine learning is a type of AI that identifies patterns based on large sets of data. The machine uses these patterns to make predictions. Then, it uses more and more data to improve those predictions over time.
Technology powered by machine learning gets better over time, often without human involvement.
This is very different from traditional software.
A typical non-AI system, like your accounting software, relies on human inputs to work. The system is hard-coded with rules by people. Then, it follows those rules exactly to help you do your taxes. The system only improves if human programmers improve it.
But machine learning tools can improve on their own. This improvement comes from a machine assessing its own performance and new data.
For instance, a marketing AI tool exists that writes email subject lines for you. Humans train the tool's machine learning using samples of a company's marketing copy. But then the tool drafts its own email subject lines. Split-testing occurs, then the machine learns on its own what to improve based on the results. Over time, the machine gets better and better with little human involvement. This unlocks possibly unlimited performance potential.
Now, imagine this power applied to any piece of marketing technology that uses data. AI can actually make everything, from ads to analytics to content, more intelligent.
That includes technology used by salespeople. And it's already happening.
How Is Artificial Intelligence Used in Sales?
Here are just a few of the top use cases we’ve found for artificial intelligence in sales today.
1. Build pipeline.
Artificial intelligence tools can help salespeople fill pipeline fast.
There are AI tools today that find new leads for you within your databases. Others will find new leads that look like your current leads. And some tools even provide contact information for people in your addressable market.
Tools to check out here include:
2. Close more leads.
There are also sales AI tools that use predictive analytics to target and rank leads based on their likelihood to close.
This helps a sales rep prioritize sales activity and work only the most promising leads, which increases close rates and creates more revenue opportunities. (Not to mention, boost sales productivity...)
Some sales solutions use AI-powered bots to engage with the leads your reps don't have time to contact.
And others make sure you engage with every lead in a personalized way, so they're more likely to close.
Vendors to investigate here include:
3. Intelligently automate and augment tasks.
AI intelligently automates some tedious sales tasks.
For instance, tools exist that automate data capture to give you back time in your day. Some solutions provide automated playbooks to cut down on response time.
AI tools can also augment your work. One example are AI solutions that analyze sales call data to help you scale operations.
Tools to look into here include:
How to Get Started with AI for Sales
If you're a salesperson, sales manager, or a marketing professional who works on sales enablement, AI can help you increase revenue and reduce costs.
That means now is the time to get started with AI, no matter your skill or comfort level.
To do so means you build a potentially insurmountable competitive advantage. To delay means you risk getting left behind.
Good news, though:
You can accelerate AI adoption in your career and your company by accessing our free Ultimate Beginner's Guide to AI in Marketing .
The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to AI in Marketing is a free resource with 100+ articles, videos, courses, books, vendors, use cases, and events to dramatically accelerate your marketing AI education. It's based on the years we spent on research and experimentation—and you can access this knowledge in a fraction of the time.