Just like every buzzword ever to take over the media — including Growth Hacking and Blockchain — Artificial Intelligence has turned out, to a degree, a disappointment. It’s not the technologies and the methodologies themselves that fail us: it’s the overly hyped up environment, the ‘yet another gold rush’ feeling, that builds expectations that are too far from reality to be taken seriously.
And yet, people are gullible. When A.I. was first introduced to the business landscape, it entailed a sci-fi promise of ultra-smart machines doing work as efficiently and as insightfully as we, humans, could have never imagined. I believe many people viewed A.I. as something Tony Stark would build for his company’s sales department.
What did we get instead? A bunch of early-stage overglorified automation tools. Which is good — just not what we expected.
But, emotion aside, what really is A.I., and is there something done in the field that can actually be of use? As it turns out, there is.
The vast majority of “A.I.-powered tools” are still just… tools. They’re pieces of software that you install on your computer that have a very particular function. The only difference is that somewhere in the description, they’ll have those two initials mentioned.
There is, however, some pretty fascinating A.I. stuff out there that are more an exception rather then the rule. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
- A.I.-powered Sales Insights
One of the most interesting sales-oriented A.I. tools is Nudge. What the app does is it basically does the lot of the heavy lifting in your sales scouting by collecting and organizing the data available on your prospects.
We all know that B2B sales is about personalization. However, it can be time consuming (ROI-lowering) to go in-depth about each and every one of your prospects.
According to their page, Nudge scans the Internet for all relevant data on your prospects, so that you know exactly who you’re dealing with. It will go through social media posts, account info, etc.
Probably the best thing about tools like Nudge is that you’ll be notified of new information posted by or about the prospects. When you have hundreds or thousands of prospects on your list, you can’t afford to religiously follow their social networks. Nudge, on the other hand, is designed to do that.
- In-house Sales Analysis
Another really exciting B2B sales application is through in-house sales monitoring and analysis. Sales is very much a methodical process: nobody ever expects a 100% conversion rate, and what you do is you constantly try to improve your own process, and through that, improve your success rate.
People.ai is basically an A.I.-driven sales coach. It monitors how your sales department spends their time, which of their efforts result in most sales, and provides a bunch of other benchmarking metrics.
Can tools like People.ai replace sales training specialists? In my opinion, no — at least not yet. Experience simply offers too many intangibles that a piece of software simply won’t have. But it can be a good temporary substitute for full-on sales training.
- Automation, Of Course
Lastly, the least exciting, but still useful application of A.I.: automation. Sales is very much about the numbers and efficiency, and if you can have some of the tedious stuff automated, you can dial more, and make more sales.
One of the things you can ‘outsource’ to your computer program is scheduling. X.ai is an “artificial intelligence virtual assistant” that will schedule meetings on your behalf. It will send emails back and forth to your prospects, partners and employees, so that you can focus on what really matters.
If your company uses Salesforce and is looking to implement Slack, check out an app called Troops. It basically builds a connection between the two platforms, making Salesforce info accessible through Slack. Another small win for your sales efficiency.
Some tools, like Conversica, will go even further and try to handle your sales process. Now, I’ve never used something like that before, but letting a piece of software handle your sales communication seems like taking it a step too far. Either way, if you’re into that kind of stuff, now you know it’s out there.