AI for Sales Will Challenge Your Thinking

Artificial intelligence (AI) is without a doubt one of the hottest topics in tech today. AI tools – with the ability to interpret enormous volumes of data – have the potential to make B2B sales reps more productive. Reps will even be able to delegate certain tasks to AI systems – which will be able to perform a task better than a rep ever could.

While AI promises so much, some AI vendors have been a bit short on specifics. I have lost count of the AI platforms with buzzword-heavy value propositions that promise to help your company deliver “a smarter, personalized, and more predictive experience”. For many, the question of how AI systems can bring value to the organization remains unanswered. An AI-powered personal assistant might be nice, but it is hardly a priority for any B2B sales or marketing leader. In this post, I would like to explain the impact AI can have on sales content.

AI for Sales is Here

The above image illustrates the differences between a marketing-produced slide, a sales-produced slide, and a slide unearthed by an AI-powered content recommendation system. Starting on the left we have the ‘approved’ slide from marketing. If you saw this slide in isolation you’d have a good chance of guessing the intended use case. Unfortunately, prospects today have grown weary of approved marketing speak and will resent wasting time watching a presentation that does not deal with their specific business challenges.

The slide in the middle shows how a sales rep modified the marketing slide before their meeting so that it is more ‘tailored’ for the audience. The messaging is adjusted in the slide, there’s a mix of off-brand fonts and colors, and even a typo. But it speaks the language of the intended technology marketing audience.

The slide on the right comes from asking Docurated to recommend what slide to use. Docurated leverages historical activity, content, and outcomes to predict the best slide to use. It is now unrecognizable from the original and introduces messaging that only a machine could find/recommend…but Docurated predicts it will have a 67% better conversion rate than the original. Isn’t that incredible?

The AI for Sales Challenge

The biggest challenge in AI for Sales has little to do with the algorithms and technology. The algorithms have been continuously improved over the last 30 years, the difference is that just now we’ve got a substantial amount of data available in order for it to work. The real challenge for B2B leaders is to do with letting go of the top-down marketing to sales delivery of collateral. Decades of working on playbooks, personas, standard corporate decks have created prejudices, habits, and workflows that are difficult to break.

In the slides above we started with the traditional, manually created by marketing version. We know this looks good and the insights are familiar, yet not compelling. Moving to the center, a sales rep gets their hand on the PPT file and being more familiar with their prospect re-works the slide. The output looks a bit messier but the insight is a bit more targeted/specific than the one on the left. However, it’s still not the kind of insight that makes someone buy. Here we have a rep working off their intuition – which can definitely be very valuable to the organization, but in sales today there are so many variables in each unique sales situation. Variables include deal size, product type, industry, geography, number of stakeholders, use case, deal stage, financial terms, and competitor behavior. Then, before a rep decides which materials to share with prospects, they need to figure out how content has performed in similar situations – if it has resonated or if it under performed.

In short, there are so many factors to consider before sharing content with a prospect. Content – which we know can make or break a deal. That is why the slide on the right is so valuable. Human constraints and gaps in knowledge are removed and the information in the slide is optimized for conversion. However, some of the insights are new, so the sales rep need to place their trust in the AI that the recommended collateral will work better than the marketing or sales rep generated version.

The biggest challenge with AI for sales is to let go of how we’ve historically worked. Decades of working with personas and playbooks across many silos has created habits that are difficult to break.