How AI Can Help Us Create The Perfect Sale
Undeniably, we find ourselves in a very exciting time. The technological advancement of previous decades shows no signs of slowing down and with each year that passes, more and better solutions are released to help us work faster, exercise better, live happier.
The way in which we buy and sell has also critically shifted in a short period of time.
Businesses have perfectly profiled their ideal personas, consumers demand transparency and authenticity from their favourite brands and we all expect next-day delivery and instant access to anything and everybody at any time.
But what does the future hold for anybody working in sales? And does this new wave of change put an end to the stale sales journey of previous years?
We had the opportunity to interview CloudApps’ Co-Founder, CEO and seasoned technology leader Anthony Day, who has shared his insight into data-driven selling, tips on creating the perfect sale and predictions for what lies ahead in today’s post.
Q1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What’s your role at CloudApps and how long have you been at the company?
I’m the CEO at CloudApps and also one of the co-founders. We set the business up in late 2009 with a focus on building world-class apps for the salesforce.com community.
The CloudApps team is composed of developers, Salesforce architects and sales leaders with extensive Sales and CRM backgrounds, bringing a wealth of experience into our products and in turn the Salesforce ecosystem.
Q2. How do you predict leading organisations will be managing their sales teams in 2020?
We have seen a lot of change over the last 10 years as cloud applications have become the predominant means of implementing sales and customer relationship management solutions.
But the majority of this change has been in relation to how and where sales reps access their solutions such as in the Cloud and on their Mobile devices, coupled with an expansion in the amount of information available and an increased requirement to enter more information about the deals they are working.
How sales teams will be managed and even operate in the future is set to change dramatically for the more forward-thinking organisations. A wealth of behavioural insight and more specifically the ability to easily consume and interpret this insight will provide the ability to gain significant competitive advantage in the very near future.
Q3. AI seems to be the biggest trend in business at the moment. What can AI do for sales?
We hear about AI every day, from the diagnosis of major diseases to the introduction of autonomous vehicles.
We predict that AI and Machine Learning will have a huge part to play in the future of selling, especially around opportunity management and forecasting.
This is because machine learning has the ability to deeply analyse every opportunity an organisation has ever worked on, and determine the precise sales behaviours that impacted each one in either a positive or negative way.
And this can completely change the way in which we do sales.
Rather than follow a standard sales process, we can start to tailor our interactions with our prospects based on what we’ve learnt would work best.
Just imagine if every sales rep could remember not only all the opportunities they worked on but every exchange they had with each customer, every response they received, along with the sequence of the behaviours performed.
Combining that with the ability to understand the implications of each behaviour before deciding what to do next is beyond almost everyone!
Having a system that can make sense of all this information at scale places sellers in a much more strategic position. It gives them foresight into each important interaction before ever taking action – allowing them to take the best approach for each opportunity in the pipeline.
This all leads to a big improvement in successful outcomes. And who doesn’t want to win more often?
Q4. We’ve noticed a shift in the way consumers purchase. Buyers are said to be typically 60% through their decision-making process before ever talking to a sales rep. Where should we focus our efforts to service this new buyer?
Absolutely, we have seen a steady evolution within sales, and one that has been principally driven by the customer.
Due to the growth of the internet, social media and information sharing in general, buyers have better access to a wealth of very varied knowledge on our product or services – often composed by others’ experiences and reviews online.
As a result, buyers have already formed specific opinions on our company, products and services – and also those of our competitors – before ever engaging with our sales team.
In these circumstances, we need to quickly ensure that we understand what they perceive. Behavioural Insights from similar organisations that we have previously dealt with can be invaluable in helping us understand this current customer allowing us to hit the ground running and to start interacting with them from a strong position of understanding.
The sales landscape is highly competitive so the ability to present a personalised solution to the buyer, one that we are confident will be a good fit for their requirements is the key to outsmarting our competitors and successfully moving each opportunity forward.
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Q5. CloudApps’ headline product, SuMo, offers its customers a view into sales reps’ behaviours within Salesforce. What are the benefits of having such granular data on performance?
SuMo is unique in offering the ability to observe the behaviours being performed by sales reps within the Salesforce CRM system.
Not just simple behaviours such as defining next steps, sending a quote or pinpointing the decision-maker, but complex, sequenced behaviours that are often time-bound and traverse multiple objects.
Natively Salesforce does not offer this capability and without it, there is no ability to understand the behaviours that improve outcomes, or the undesirable behaviours which reduce the likelihood of closing a deal.
This data-driven approach to selling also enhances the ability of sales managers to operate as coaches.
Managers now have access to a wealth of behavioural insights including the ability to compare individuals and group averages to uncover areas for improvement that can then be coached and addressed.
Changing behaviour and hence driving improvements in performance can also be achieved via the use of “nudge theory” and “gamification”.
These techniques and mechanisms tap into the psychology of us as humans and use mechanisms that change our behaviours. Thus they can be used to improve sales outcomes and boost reps’ performance over time.
Sales reps are typically competitive individuals and the use of gamification techniques such as competitions and leaderboards has been proven to be a very effective means of improving sales performance.
Q6. What’s next for CloudApps? What’s in the roadmap for the next six months?
The roadmap for the next six months is very exciting, as we have spent the last 12 months prototyping, designing and building a new AI offering.
The development has been going really well and we will be demonstrating the fruits of our labour for the first time at Salesforce World Tour on the 23rd of May in London.
Our objective was to take what has been done elsewhere and apply it to the selling process. A primary source of inspiration was the approach taken by DeepMind who developed AlphaGo, the first computer program to defeat a human Go player, the legendary Lee Sedol, winner of 18 world titles.
The creators of AlphaGo stated that they believed their approach would be generalisable to other areas where a series of actions are taken in a sequence to achieve an outcome. To us, that sounded like the behaviours and actions undertaken in a sales process between the seller and the buyer and hence we took up their challenge!
The result is our Sensai offering. Sensai implements certain algorithms and an artificial neural network to do two things:
1. Recommend the specific behaviours a rep should undertake next on each opportunity they are working. These behaviours are the ones that Sensai has determined will have the most positive impact in moving the opportunity forward to a successful outcome. These are unique to the circumstances, attributes and timing of each individual opportunity and are “learnt” from all past opportunities.
2. Predict with a higher level of certainty which opportunities will close, thus providing sales leaders with an alternative forecast view with the objective of significantly improving forecast accuracy.
Early results using the opportunity and behavioural data from our existing customers have been highly encouraging, amazing in fact!
We believe that this approach will revolutionise selling, eliminating the need for a one-size-fits-all sales process and replacing it with an individualised and unique “Guided Sales” process where AI is personalising the sequence of interactions and behaviours for each sales rep on each opportunity.
Be the first to see Sensai in action at Salesforce World Tour London.