How will AI impact on B2B sales?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly integrated into many industries such as healthcare, alongside particular business departments such as sales and customer service. In a society where everything is becoming more technology dependent, it is inevitable that AI will play a role in sales interactions in the future.

We expect that sales reps will increasingly use AI in their day to day activities within the next few years, and knowing where and how to take advantage of this new technology will ultimately help sales reps to improve their sales skills and leverage AI to deliver an enhanced service to clients.

According to HBR, 85% of all sales rep activities have the potential to be automated (1). Tasks such as gathering information from customers and prospects, taking customers’ orders for a particular product or processing the sales transaction itself could all be done by AI technology.

However, other tasks such as making nuanced commercial decisions or building an ongoing relationship with a customer cannot be automated and will likely remain at the core of what sales reps do in the future.  That’s why we always advocate the practice of building up your position as a thought leader to differentiate what you do from other tactical players and built strategic relationships.

AI is not a substitute for sales people; it would instead complement their day to day activities; helping them to become more efficient and freeing up their time to focus on what matters.

AI can also be of use in relation to the after sales service. It is often after a sale has been completed that focus on a customer wains. A follow up is sometimes not carried out by the sales team to check if the customer is satisfied or has any problems with their new purchase. It is time consuming to keep track of all of this and sales reps may find that it takes time away from researching prospects and getting in touch with potential customers. Here is where AI can help them. AI could be used to gather all the data from new purchases and check in regularly with each customer, in a quick and effective way.

AI tools could be used to check if customers are happy or whether they need further assistance with their product. This leads us to another field where AI can be really useful and cost effective: customer service.

Analysts say that for complicated and sensitive complaints, customers want to speak to a real person and not with an AI chatbot (2). Customer service via telephone is often a frustrating process, with lots of questions and security procedures, so it is understandable that customers want real people to be on the other side of the phone once they get through. On the other hand, emails and live chat functions could harness AI technology to respond to simple information requests.

Many emails are unstructured, chaotic, and sometimes difficult to understand. AI could filter, classify and “decode” them in a quick and cost effective way so that customer service departments do not have to spend half their time deciphering content and deciding which category they should classify a particular email to. If AI can take this ‘painful’ process away from them, then sales reps and customer service teams have more time to focus their energy on delivering the best service possible to customers.

Nothing can replace the relationship between a sales rep and a customer; BUT, in many cases, sales reps tend not to follow a particular set of processes, as each sales rep has their own way of doing things. This can lead to ineffectiveness and obstacles that can slow down transactions if sales behaviours vary across an organisation. Incorporating AI into the picture can be a win-win situation, both for the vendor and the sales rep; as AI can support the sales cycle by ensuring that sales reps follow processes, speeding them up whilst guiding b2b sales reps through steps so that they spend as little time as possible on admin activities. AI can even coach sales reps to uncover new ways to interpret data, enabling more effective procedures throughout the whole business.

AI should be thought of as complementary to b2b sales reps and customer service teams; taking care of simpler, automated tasks so that individuals can focus on the most demanding activities which require skills such as empathy, relationship building and decision making. Ultimately, the use of AI can help sales reps to spend their time in the most efficient way, taking all the frustrating, costly and time consuming tasks away from them.

So, what else does the future hold? We are already seeing AI-driven tools being used by b2b sales teams today; to keep up to date with clients’ social media activities and guiding reps in how to write the most effective emails for their recipients. The next step could be AI-enabled chatbots to take customers through the first part of the sales process.

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