We are used to seeing AI and machine learning in our “consumer” lives — from Netflix and Amazon’s eerily accurate recommendations about what we would like to watch or buy next, to our Nests having our home at the just right temperature when we walk in at night. We are comfortable cohabitating with AI at home, yet AI adoption by sales and marketing professionals is elusive. We’re riding the crest of innovation in go-to-market technologies — first CRM, then marketing automation and now applied AI for sales acceleration — you want to catch this new wave.
To be clear, B2B sales and marketing professions have nothing to fear and everything to gain from adopting AI. The human element of B2B sales and marketing is necessary despite all the technology at our fingertips. While it may be called B2B, at the end of the day, there are real people engaging with each other in each of the “B’s” and it is this IRL relationship that cements sales.
Applied AI assists B2B sales and marketing
The worry about a fictional HAL or Skynet replacing sales and marketing professionals prevents teams from actually seeing the reality of applied AI for sales acceleration. In the movies, AI is generalized and the horror comes from the machines “becoming human”, but applied AI points at specific use cases — generally those that are tedious, time consuming and involving lots of data. And because there are many of these tasks within B2B — applying AI can liberate sales and marketing pros from these tasks, and quickly provide them the actionable insights needed to accelerate sales.
Applying AI to 3 key areas of your go-to-market strategy will significantly increase sales momentum:
- Market planning/ABM:
Every B2B strategy starts with identifying “who” to target for demand generation and outbound sales efforts. You want to focus your limited resources on just those companies who best fit your desired customer profile. To be effective, your desired customer profiles must extend beyond basic firmographics and take into account the characteristics and elements unique to each company including their technology investments, product and services offered, as well as elements around growth and hiring. It is these nuanced characteristics which best distinguish your best fit targets from the basic firmographic lookalikes so you can accelerate your sales cycles. That’s powerful.
The best AI solutions will assist your team in:
1) defining your desired customer profile utilizing insights that go far beyond basic firmographics in minutes, not months.
2) Identifying all of the companies with the highest fit to the profile you desire.
Statistics show that sales professionals can spend upwards of 30% of their time just on prospecting. And while we want their outreach to be informed, personalized and relevant; prospecting is tedious and a time waster. Your sales team doesn’t need more data, they need actionable insights right at their fingertips.
AI-assisted prospecting crunches through all the available company data, doing the legwork to reveal the right companies to focus on and the most up to date intelligence. This includes insights for a strong talk track or personalized, relevant email outreach, and up to date names and contact information of decision makers. The sales team has the intelligence right on hand – directly within their workflow.
- Intent: who is in market now?
One of the most valuable things AI can provide your sales team with is the insight into who is actively in market right now or their intent to buy. AI can be used to uncover intent by powering through all the data signals from companies, including whether decision makers within a company are researching your product or even a competitor’s.
Your team definitely wants to know if a competitor is on a target account’s radar, plus knowing intent can help you spot new opportunities outside your target accounts. Growth-minded B2B organizations use AI solutions to stay agile and focus their energy on accounts that are already in active demand.
AI must be at the whole team’s fingertips
Too many times people hear the terms AI and machine learning and their minds flash to programmers locked in a basement with whirring computers. This provides an inaccurate impression that AI is only “safe” in the hands of a data scientist and not a part of the day to day work of the team.
While you don’t want to confuse team members with all the inherent complexity of AI, the power of it needs to be at the fingertips of every sales and marketing pro on your team. The best applied AI solutions arm sales and marketing teams with the actionable insights — not “more data” or another “score”. Ideally these insights are seamlessly delivered within an intuitive, friendly UX or, even better, within their CRM or automation tool of choice.
Agility is crucial for high growth
High growth organizations never stand still. Market conditions, customers, prospects, your competition — these are always changing and evolving. If the ‘ideal customer profile’ or set of target accounts established at the top of the year remains too rigid, you will miss a growth opportunity.
Applied AI helps a busy, focused B2B team both perceive early signals from amidst all the shifting sands and take action. The best solutions helps teams create new models in minutes, not weeks or months, with as little as a keyword or just one customer record. And it’s necessary that everybody on your go-to-market team have the power of AI at their fingertips – so a an intuitive interface and/or integrations are a must.
Now is the time for B2B to get comfortable with AI and separate fact from fiction. Use it to liberate sales and marketing teams from the most tedious and boring tasks and allow them to do what humans do best: make informed insights and interact personally with prospects. That’s the wave you want to catch.