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AI Puts the I in Teams – Using AI for Sales

Everyone knows “there’s no I in team,” but, if you want your sales team to work like a team, you might consider ignoring that old saying for now. That’s because using AI for sales is changing the way sales reps view and engage with their CRM, and it’s all for the better.

Let’s be honest: in sales, it’s all about “I” or “me,” particularly when it involves the usage of a CRM system. Sales people, in general, are self-centered creatures when it comes to their professional life, and that’s coming from a career salesman. I “signed up” for sales, after all, because I wanted the independence of being in charge of my own income and not being tied down to a fixed salary, a lot of rules and someone telling me what to do every day.

This make-your-own-way mentality is great for ambitious individuals but presents some challenges to large organizations. While companies want their sales people to be independent thinkers, self-starters and producers of revenue, they also want them to contribute to the greater good – to help build the organization as a whole, not just their own sales success.

CRM makes the dichotomy between the individual and the organization even more apparent. While built for sales people, CRM is often not perceived that way by the sales reps who use it (or, more accurately, don’t use it). In fact, most sales reps commonly look at CRM in exactly the opposite way – they view it as a tool designed to satisfy managers and executives, not a tool to advance their own agenda which is to generate more sales.

It’s no wonder then that adoption for CRM continues to be so poor after decades of adding new features, improving UIs and dashboards and, yes, introducing new capabilities through analytics. None of these features are addressing the “I” problem of user engagement, so the perception/reality doesn’t change. In other words, sales reps are still looking at CRM and saying to themselves, “I get why my manager wants me to use it, but what’s in it for me?”

AI for Sales Is the Tipping Point

AI offers us the most promising opportunity to date for addressing the poor adoption problem. How’s that? Well, it isn’t much different than the way smart speakers have turned my parents, both of whom are anti-computer and in their 70s, into avid Amazon shoppers.

Whereas my Dad never had to use a computer a single time in his career and was quite happy for it, he now orders household goods and other items from Amazon without thinking twice. Sure, Amazon has been around for years, but it wasn’t until Alexa (which is powered by AI, by the way) hit the scene that my Dad became a “computer user,” although he doesn’t even know it or think of it that way.

No one asked him to use the technology. The smart speaker simply showed up and made his life easier. Instead of driving to the store across town, he simply speaks, and the products show up on his doorstep two days later. It’s amazing really, and it’s made him more personally productive.

AI can do the same thing for sales reps who, for the most part, are all about being team players so long as it doesn’t mean they have to compromise their personal productivity in the process. If we can make CRM as easy and convenient for sales reps as the smart speaker has made shopping for my Dad, then watch out.

Speech Recognition, Natural Language Understanding and Other Technologies

AI is already having significant impacts on how we interact with our devices and computers, and it’s those technologies that recognize, interpret and translate language that are driving it. For example, Natural language understanding (NLU) has already surpassed the human capacity for translating voice to text, and it’s only getting better. Likewise, AI capabilities for processing the intent of language is progressing at a similar mind-boggling pace. It’s the reason we frequently see people dictating emails to their smart phones or talking to digital assistants through smart speakers.

All of this taken together means that the ability to have an AI personal assistant – or an enterprise digital assistant – that you can interact with is not a futuristic, wish-list type technology. It’s already here. So for those sales reps out there who cringe when they hear the word CRM (and I’m with you on that), just remember that applied AI can finally turn your CRM into a tool that actually benefits you (and me).

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