Technology is progressing at a fast pace and tech innovations are taking place quite often. One of the biggest developments in tech is AI.
The World Economic Forum lists Applied Artificial Intelligence in the top 10 technology trends that are going to shape the decade.
We are already observing a vast application of AI and ML in the tech industry, especially in gadgets. You can see smartphone cameras with AI take DSLR professional photos and videos. The voice assistants can recognize your voice and act on your command. All of this is the magic of AI.
However, the application of AI is much wider. Businesses are now using AI and ML to improve all of their aspects including the sales process.
In this guide, you will understand how AI and ML are changing the B2B sales process. You will understand its benefits, challenges and also know about alternatives.
Understanding AI and ML Briefly
What is AI?
AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. It means exactly what it sounds like. AI uses data, machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning, etc. to make smart programs and machines.
These smart programs and machines can make their own decisions. With more and more data, they can understand the patterns better and do specific cognitive tasks effectively and sometimes even better than humans.
One of the prime examples of AI is the self-driving mode on Tesla cars. Their self-driving software collects data from cars and sensors in their cars all over the world to improve and enhance the self-driving experience.
What is ML?
ML stands for Machine Learning and it is a subset of the AI umbrella. This branch of AI focuses mainly on the use of data and algorithms to make decisions. Machine learning works pretty much the same way human learning works. It knows better when you feed more data to it.
Benefits of AI and ML in the B2B Sales Process
Automates the B2B Sales Process
The times are changing and companies are realizing the benefits of AI and implementing AI and ML into their sales process.
According to a Gartner report, 30% of all B2B companies will employ AI in at least one of their primary sales processes.
AI in B2B sales process can help you automate a lot of processes.
As per the Harvard Business Review, companies that implemented AI in their sales process observed around 60-70% reduction in call time and about 40-60% cost reductions.
These are some big numbers and, with the use of AI, you can streamline and optimize your product catalog and equip the sales reps with tools that can provide customized sales quotes in seconds.
Lead generation is one of the biggest tasks for any B2B company. Generating leads means more potential customers and more sales.
AI can help you generate leads much faster. With the use of ML and data from your previous sales, it can effectively shortlist the leads that would be worth trying.
As per the Harvard Business Review, companies that implemented AI in their sales increased their leads by about 50%.
If you are in a competitive business, that kind of edge over your competitor can push your business to grow exponentially. That is why many businesses have been implementing AI and ML in the B2B sales process.
Nurtures the Customers
This is one of the areas where AI just shines the most. Once you have leads or prospective customers, you would like to offer the best possible solutions to close the deal. With enough data and good algorithms, AI can accurately predict what the customer would want to buy based on the customer’s query and activity.
AI can accurately send product recommendations to the customers from time to time which helps in increasing sales.
Dynamic pricing is something fairly new in the sales process. Now that the entire sales process is moved online and inventory management is also easy, businesses can offer discounts, offers, etc in real-time. However, to keep up with that, one has to use software that can support dynamic pricing.
This is where AI and ML come to save the day. As you feed more and more data to the AI, it can optimize the prices for your products in real-time. The AI can also provide customized quotes that will not affect your profit margins negatively but also give sufficient discounts to the customer at the same time. This is something that only humans were able to do but AI and ML have got to the point where these technologies can also do such tasks.
AI and ML can make nearly accurate predictions in terms of sales. By understanding a customer’s pattern of purchasing, time taken to close a sale, and a lot of other variables, it can accurately predict which customers will most likely do business with you. This comes in handy when you are working on multiple leads and have to focus on the ones that will buy the product.
Challenges for AI and ML in B2B Sales Process
Not too Much Data to Work
The thing with AI and ML is that it needs a lot of data to work effectively to their full potential. So as long as you are not some big enterprise like Google, Facebook(now Meta), or Microsoft, chances are you do not have that kind of data.
Without a lot of data to work on, AI and ML are not effective and won’t give you any satisfactory results if implemented in the B2B sales process.
Still in Early Phases of Development
Another thing to note is that AI and ML are still in the early stage of development. Especially when it comes to their implementations in areas other than tech.
Because of that, no one is confident to give the decision-making power of their business to a computer algorithm. There could be risks involved when implementing AI and that is why it must be safeguarded by humans.
Costly to Implement
This is kind of the cause and effect of the early stages of AI and ML in the sales process. Because there is not too much data to work on, the implementation of AI and ML in B2B sales process is still a little costly to implement. That is why a lot of businesses are still not doing it.
Are There Any Alternatives?
As of now, the implementation of AI and ML in the B2B sales process still has some challenges and doubts. Giving the decision-making power for a business to a computer still creates a sense of doubt in people’s brains.
So what is the alternative, then?
A model where humans can work together with AI to gain the maximum benefits would be a good start.
That is exactly what Augmented Intelligence is all about. It is a design pattern for the partnership of the human mind and AI. The main benefit of Augmented Intelligence is that it is based on the human-centered approach.
So instead of a computer having the power to make all the decisions, your business is safeguarded by human beings.
So that was all about the role of AI and ML in the B2B sales process. AI has all the potential to completely change and automate how we do business online. However, as of now, it is still in the early stages so the risk of errors is a bit high. The current best solution seems to be a human-centered model like Augmented Intelligence which can benefit from AI at the maximum level, while still keeping the important decision-making powers to the human mind instead of the computers.