Ten ways Artificial Intelligence is helping shape highly successful seller behaviours
A few years ago we published two well received blogs on the top 10 characteristics of highly successful sales people – those all-important traits that make a star salesperson stand out from the crowd, and the qualities that they possess to ensure they’re always a step closer than their peers to making that next big sale.
But the world of B2B sales is fast moving, and since we published our blog significant developments in tech innovation, particularly artificial intelligence have resulted in dramatic changes to ways in which sellers sell.
So looking back at our top ten characteristics, here are the key ways in which artificial intelligence technologies are disrupting and shaping the most successful sales leaders in 2018:
1. Great listeners
We talked about how top performing sales people take the time to learn about their customers and prospects, and answer some all-important questions – What’s important to them? What challenges they face? What goals they set? What’s keeping them up at night? What can be learned from past successes and failures?
Knowing what customers want, why they want it, when they want it, and how best to deliver solutions has always been a key skill set of the successful seller, so what has changed?
The answer is data, or perhaps more importantly the human limitations of listening at scale when the availability and volume of data grows exponentially every single day.
Sellers simply don’t have the time, or mental capacity, to sift through the millions of articles, blogs, press releases, financial reports and social media feeds posted worldwide every day. Enter AI!
Artificial intelligence that uses advanced analytics and machine learning is enabling sellers to augment their listening skills by digging deeper than ever before into data (or ‘Big Data’).
Constantly analysing, filtering and presenting the insights of greatest value from news reports, public financial and corporate information, social media and so on – those that improve real-time understanding of the customer and what’s driving them at any given moment.
Sellers that use tools to advance their understanding of the customer and enhance listening skills are pulling away from their peers.
According to a study by Narrative Science 61% of businesses using AI believe they are spotting opportunities in data that would otherwise have been missed, and by 2020 they could be stealing as much as $1.2 trillion per annum from their less-informed peers according to Forrester Predictions 2017: Artificial Intelligence will Drive the Insights Revolution
2. Problem Solvers
We discussed how star sellers look for signals that indicate a customer or prospect might need their help. How they gain first mover advantage by identifying and quantifying problems perhaps even before the customer knows they have them.
Prediction is a skill that’s more important today than ever before. Salesforce’s 2016 Connected Customer report highlighted that by 2020 57% of business buyers will switch brands if a company doesn’t actively anticipate their needs.
Machine learning and predictive analytics are feeding sellers with never-before-seen real time insights into customer needs and goals, pain points, market dynamics, competitor activity, sentiments and buying trigger and enabling them to construct predictive models for faster decision making and direct action – whether that be jumping on an opportunity to add value, tracking emotional sentiments that signal an intent to buy, identifying an issue that a customer needs to address, or spotting an emerging risk that needs action in order to mitigate damage.
Artificial intelligence is enabling B2B sellers to anticipate the needs of their customers at an unprecedented level, and as time goes by and the amount of data available to AIs grows to unimaginable amounts, problem solving is only bound to become more and more refined.
In our blog we’ve talked about how the best sales people are organised and structured. They can multi-task and remain agile, but remain in control by building time into every day to undertake the tasks that count – researching their customers, growing their network, listening, sharing and building their reputation.
But sellers are time pressured, they are under constant scrutiny to not only boost revenues but improve productivity, and they are expected to be experts. Artificial intelligence offers a welcome solution to the problem of information overload and lack of time.
Artificial intelligence is rapidly mastering tasks that until very recently were deemed off limits for machines, with artificial intelligence and machine learning applications increasingly capable of performing activities traditionally handled by people.
And, unlike humans, AIs never sleep, meaning sellers can rely on them to keep the plates spinning when the limitations of their physiology mean they can’t.
By embracing automation, sellers have more time to undertake the complex aspects of their roles – the proactive relationship building activities, as well as strategic issues, such as what sales opportunities to pursue, what resources to allocate to which accounts, and what behaviours to prioritise in order to drive sales productivity.
Artificial intelligence is making sellers more proactive by them saving time (as much as 34% according to a PwC report).
We have talked a lot over the last few years about customer curiosity.
Curiosity is one of the most critical competencies for the modern sales leader. Curious sellers seek to understand the world through the customer’s lens – what their world looks like, what is important to them, what drives them, and what turns them off.
Curious people tend to also be the ones that are keen to push boundaries, find new reasons to get excited, suggest new ideas, and uncover new ways to solve problems.
AI for the short term at least cannot replicate such an innate human trait, AI’s need a clear set of instructions and clearly defined goals. But in the same way as AI is boosting proactive behaviours it is also serving to nurture and channel curiosity.
More than simply taking over thankless, repetitive or laborious tasks it offers sellers offer the potential to augment our own abilities – by delivering the intelligence and insight needed to uncover new ways to solve problems and add value, keep a finger firmly on the pulse of market trends, stay alive to new opportunities, and get closer to customers.
A great salesperson knows their strengths and weaknesses, and finds ways to fill the gaps. They adopt new behaviours, seek out opportunities to direct their strengths to best effect, and learn how to manage their weaknesses in order to work in the best interests of the buyer.
I read a somewhere that 71% of millennials believe that meaningful work is an essential factor in defining career success, and I have no doubt that the same is true of even the most seasoned and established sales professional.
Today’s top sellers crave more than “just a job.” They want meaningful work that gives them purpose and inspires them to give it their all. Inspiration is the spark that lights the fire – it’s what gets sellers going.
We’ve talked about how AI is lighting the spark, and how automation is leaving sellers free to undertake the more creative and rewarding aspects of their role. But AI powered sales tools are also enhancing self-development.
AI and machine learning concepts provide an ideal set of techniques with which to analyse and model the actions and outcomes of the thousands of sellers in order to understand best practice and the behaviours that deliver the most successful outcomes.
If armed with a clear view of what patterns of sales-scenarios, people, products and human interactions represent the most likely successful outcomes it’s a relatively small step to also compute the opposite actions/inactions that typically correlate with failure.
And having done so initiate the software to proactively intervene – facilitate coaching or suggest course-corrections for enhanced self-development
6. Outcomes focussed
The best sellers don’t just look to the easily achievable, but set big goals and thrive on the challenge of achieving them. Each new piece of data an AI receives allows the machine to learn even more, update information, look for new patterns, and continuously optimise outcomes.
In its report entitled Artificial Intelligence: The Next Digital Frontier, McKinsey found that case study examples across a wide range of industries demonstrate that AI can improve outcomes by enabling companies to better project and forecast to anticipate demand, optimise R&D, deliver services of higher quality at lower cost, promote offerings at the right price, with the right message, and to the right target customers, and provide rich, personal, and convenient customer experiences.
7. Customer-centric value givers
Great sales people ensure that every interaction relates directly to their customer’s agenda and they do this by collecting and using customer and market information in ways that enrich their interactions and enhance the customer experience at every touch point.
According to Adobe’s 8th annual “Digital Trends” report optimising customer experience comes out as the top opportunity for businesses in 2018, and organisations that value creativity are 46% more likely to exceed their business goals.
Similarly according to a 2017 Walker Study, customer experience will overtake both price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.
This sentiment is reinforced by the likes of Deloitte and Aberdeen, who have both also produced statistics on the value of customer experience and demonstrated that it is both a key differentiator and retention strategy.
The best customer centric sellers are not just gathering data, or data mining, but using emerging capabilities in data analytics, data modelling, machine learning and natural language processing to interpret data, garner value from it, and differentiate by experience.
Whether that means harnessing the ability to augment a sales call with useful or insightful contextual anecdote at the vital moment, capture and hold the attention of a customer meeting by utilising up-to-the-minute insights about everyone sitting around the table, uncover triggers or pain points and provide a solutions at that exact moment its needed, or even find an interesting piece of content that would be of interest to a customer and automatically share it.
Data technology and artificial intelligence are rapidly becoming critical tools for the customer centric value giving seller – translating data into insight, and enabling insight to be turned into actions that deliver improved customer experiences at every touch point.
8. Relationship builders
It has never been more important for sellers to keep that loyal band of customers happy. Nurturing relationships is just as important to driving efficient and sustainable long-term sales success as generating and qualifying new leads, and on-boarding new customers.
A McKinsey Global Institute study found that 40% of time spent on sales work activities can be automated. If almost half of a sellers day is freed up by harnessing artificial intelligence to automate tasks such as finding qualified leads, uncovering triggers and buying signals, processing transactions and other mundane tasks, the positive knock on effect is that will have more time to spend focusing on relationships and nurturing their most profitable customers.
Super sellers think on their feet. They know that doing things the way they have always done them is not necessarily the way to get business done in today.
We talk a lot about the future of sales and the impact of artificial intelligence, but the reality is that artificial intelligence is already here and early adopters are already winning the race – harnessing technologies that look for smarter and deeper insights to win sales, and synthesise a data driven understanding of customer wants, needs and preferences in order to personalise customer experiences and connect with them in more meaningful, value-driven ways.
In 2017 the Boston Consulting Group found that 85 percent of executives believed AI will allow their companies to obtain or sustain competitive advantage. Being and adaptable seller in 2018 means being prepared to embrace the brave new world of artificial intelligence and closer collaboration with machines.
10. Never give up
Star sellers are tireless, hardworking and persistent. When one door shuts they simply knock on another one and they knock on the right doors, and have the right conversations, with the right people at the right time.
In any business, no matter what size or market, decisions are not made by only one or two people at the top, indeed according to the CEB Global, 5.4 people are involved in the average B2B decision-making group, and they are not exclusively the people with the most visible profiles.
There are many influencers involved in buying decisions – each will have their own agenda, their own view as to the solution, and be at a different stage in the buying journey.
Artificial intelligence helps sellers navigate their way through organisations, achieve a clearer picture of decision maker expectations, sentiments and preferences, as well as harness the market challenges and influences surrounding the buying process, such as expansion news, management changes, legislative, regulatory, compliance and risk management changes and triggers, acquisitions.
Artificial intelligence empowers sellers to never give up and ensures that when they knock on a door they are armed with the right information, at the right moment to kick off a conversation that ultimately win business.
Gone are the days of cold calling and weary travelling sales reps, gone are the days of sales teams guessing about qualified leads and the ‘what, when and how’ of delivering products and services, and gone are the days when price and product meant more than customer experience.
Artificial intelligence is changing the sales process and augmenting seller behaviours for the better, and the most successful sellers today are those that are embracing and capitalising on it.
Artesian makes embracing Artificial Intelligence easy
Artesian is a powerful AI-driven service that equips sellers with the resources they need to succeed in a modern commercial environment. We provide the data, real-time insight and context sellers need to sell effectively.
With the use of AI technology layered on top of company information, data and news, Artesian helps sellers uncover opportunities, build relationships and accelerate deals, by continually scanning millions of online sources for data on markets, organisations, individuals and topics.
It uses sophisticated algorithms to filter and transform that information into commercially valuable insights, helping drive customer alignment, improved sales strategy formation and success and boosted client satisfaction.
Why not talk with Arti – our conversational AI bot and find out more?