The pandemic has relegated most of us into pixilated images on a Zoom call. While some activities will revert to a pre-pandemic state, many will not, making it harder than ever to build relationships and develop affinities.
This is why it’s vital to put the most advanced digital tools in the hands of salespeople and marketers. What I’m talking about are not just legacy sales and marketing apps in the cloud––I’m talking about those apps with rocket boosters. I’m talking about backing historical information and more automation right into the tools your customer-facing workers use.
While many back-office tools such as ERP and supply chain management have already adopted AI-driven automation, the front office (sales, marketing, and service) remains the last bastion of non-automated processes.
Why? Sales and marketing people have dug in on the idea that their roles are more art than science. And they’ve clung jealously to the idea that their intuition and creativity are what differentiate them––which is true, only not in the ways they think.
For example, many salespeople think they know the best reference example to bring to a sales call, usually because they’ve used the reference successfully in the past, or because they were themselves involved in the deal, and feel more comfortable talking about it.
But it turns out that machine learning and AI can do a better job of identifying the best sales references based on which ones have worked best for a particular industry or region or company size, using a more complete set of data. These suggestions can help salespeople increase their chances of closing a sale. And they’re better criteria for determining the value of a reference than someone’s intuition.
Likewise, marketers are convinced they know the best piece of creative to use for a given campaign––but again, they’re relying on a form of confirmation bias. An AI-driven tool can actually tell them which piece of creative is best suited for a given campaign because it has learned from the experiences of other marketers across the organization.
In each case, there’s still a lot of room––I’d even argue, need––for creativity: in developing the marketing creative, in telling the story, in explaining the “why” of a given pitch. AI simply gives them the best sales or marketing collateral at the right moment.
Marketers should be creative about branding, or about using feedback to adjust what a product or service should deliver to a customer, or how to describe the features of a given product.
But salespeople and marketers should welcome a tool that takes variability out of their performance by letting a machine help them be better at their jobs.
Today, organizations using the right suite of tools can break down traditional information silos between sales, service, marketing, and advertising organizations. Those tools can provide marketers and salespeople with suggestions based on all the data at an organization’s disposal, as part of a single, engineered flow, with data from back-office systems like ERP and supply chain supplementing data contained in front-office data sets.
On one level, it’s not surprising that sales and marketing people have resisted traditional sales and marketing “automation” tools. The only automation they provide is geared to managing and monitoring them or preventing them from downloading their contacts when they leave an organization.
Today, organizations can turn that paradigm on its head. Sales and marketing leaders can provide their organizations with tools that help salespeople sell more and marketers market more effectively, driving better results for their organizations––and for their employees’ own performance-based salaries.
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