Why artificial intelligence is crucial for sales to bridge the customer chasm


For years, sales teams have struggled to keep up with a customer base using the latest technology to upend the traditional sales process. Today’s customers have more choice and buying power than ever before, and they expect unprecedented levels of contextualisation and personalisation.

The latest wave of technology, led by Artificial Intelligence (AI), may be the first time the sales team has an opportunity to harness a new technology before consumers do, to turn the tables and find new ways to meet and exceed customer expectations.

A new report from Salesforce, the State of Sales, surveyed sales professionals from around the world, finding that high performing Australian and New Zealand sales teams predict they will increase their adoption of AI by 142 per cent by 2020. The industry views AI as the secret sauce they’ve been looking for to reduce the time spent on admin and unearth the next best steps and insight needed to deliver better customer experiences and more sales.

Customer expectations driving sales team change

Customers have never asked more of the sales team. According to the report, more than three quarters of business buyers said they want to work with a partner as a trusted advisor — not just as a sales rep — who can add value to their business.

It’s difficult to deliver that value if you’re spending time on the work that isn’t delivering for customers. Australian and New Zealand sales agents said they spent 69 per cent of their time in non-sales activities in the last year according to our report.

Rinnai, the company behind some of the world’s most advanced hot water, heating and cooling systems has recently transformed the way it manages relationships with its customers to meet this expectation. After it recently implemented a new customer relationship management platform, sales teams were able to collaborate and share competitive intelligence in real time with clients including Harvey Norman and The Good Guys. Rinnai’s sales team is now able to provide a better experience for customers, reduce time spent on admin and close more deals.

AI is marching toward a tipping point for sales

AI is the next evolution for sales team using a real-time, single source of truth. An Australian business at the forefront of this is marketing and sales agency Blackdot, which uses AI to forecast its future revenues and projections to make better and more informed decisions.

Blackdot is not alone in using AI to get their sales staff the intelligence and support they need to focus on the customer. Today, 34 per cent of Australian and New Zealand sales team are using AI to get them closer to the customer and reduce time not delivering sales outcomes.

It’s also the top performing sales teams who are nearly twice as likely as underperformers to anticipate an important role for AI in their work over the coming years.

Why sales should embrace AI today

It’s hard to escape the constant noise around AI, and whether we should fear it or embrace it. However, it’s clear high-performing sales teams are the ones who use the technology to contact more customers and close more deals.

AI is allowing salespeople to sell smarter in new ways, and delivering more customers to the teams that have already made the switch. According to the report, the majority of sales teams using AI have increased their numbers of sales representatives since 2015.

New technology will continue to disrupt the ‘way it has always been done,’ and the increasing role of AI in the sales process is no different. It’s time for the sales team to embrace AI to stay ahead of the curve to exceed customer expectations.


About the author

Simon Tate, Senior Vice President APAC, Salesforce