It’s Like Siri for Sales: Intelligent Customer Interactions

June 5, 2017 Greg Howe

Picture of article author SVP of Worldwide sales Greg Howe.

Since the launch of Salesforce Einstein, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatter has reached a critical mass. Speculation abounds: will it displace jobs, will it replace jobs, will it create new jobs? In my view, AI is at its best when it assists reps. Think of it as a Siri or Alexa service for B2B sellers. When reps are fed a steady stream of actionable insights that result in intelligent customer interactions, the individual and the company get a performance turbo boost.

Consider Wall Street’s embrace of quants, or advanced mathematicians that use data and algorithms to make trading decisions. Quants have doubled their share of stock trades since 2013 – but it’s more than share – the approach is working. Last year, Point72 Asset Management “lost money in most of its traditional trading strategies while the firm’s quant investors made about $500 million.”

The go-to Wall Street imagery with hundreds of people on the trading floor, making calls and trading stocks is rapidly fading. There’s an important evolution happening; the utilization of algorithms and math is creeping into every industry on earth.

Like all breakthrough technologies, early adopters will be rewarded and laggards will continue to slip. The good news is, there’s no need to have an either/or conversation related to AI. When you have the right blend of technology, human expertise, and revenue-driving focus, you can do much more than keep up. You stand to drive company growth that’s reliable, predictable and repeatable.

Focus on Existing Customer Relationships

There are a lot of cool AI applications in the market today – voice recognition, chatbot software, data storage, data security, etc. Yet, none of these help sales teams sell more and do so profitably. Sales leaders need more than emotionally intelligent tech that scans emails and detects if a customer is upset.

In our experience, in the companies and industries we serve, 75-85 percent of company revenue is earned from run-rate business, more simply put, the base of existing customers. Too often, it’s an under-tapped resource. According to the book, “Marketing Metrics,” B2B companies have a 60 to 70 percent chance of selling to an existing customer, but only a five to 20 percent chance of selling to a new customer.

To mirror the success of Wall Street firms, B2B companies should apply AI applications to increase sales and profits within existing customer relationships. Giving sellers actionable guidance drives intelligent and thoughtful customer interactions. Our B2B customers have increased the value of their customer relationships, as measured in revenue, profitability, and duration of every customer relationship, by an average of 20 percent.

How AI Can be Like a Siri for Sellers

Many innovative business leaders use this scientific approach to expand customer lifetime value. Instead of replacing the traditional seller, each rep gets a turbo boost of prescriptive guidance. This guidance recommends to each individual seller specific actions such as:

Picture of phone saying "Hi Greg, your customer Distributions Inc. just dropped purchase volume on widgets, call them and see if you can recover the business."

  • What the fair price is for each transaction that maintains company margins.
  • When purchase patterns indicate competitive threat.
  • Which products the customer likely needs that they aren’t currently purchasing. 

Actionable guidance means sellers can’t misinterpret the actions they should take. Consider this quote from a seller that received this guidance today:

“The insights have been deadly accurate! Deep diving into the customer’s business to show them how they compare to peers provokes deep discussions and only strengthens the relationship. 

While our competition pushed irrelevant flyers to clients hoping something sticks, we can focus our efforts specifically tailored to the customer. This tool is a game-changer!”

This approach, using AI like a Siri for sales reps, is something all sales executives should be racing to deploy. It’s the best of both worlds. Tenured reps with killer instincts paired with technology that tells them precisely how to plan their week: which customers to call, which products to sell and what prices to quote. Day after day, week after week. That’s how you hit your numbers. 

Read More: How Artificial Intelligence Helps B2B Companies Succeed in Competitive Markets

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About the Author

Greg leads Zilliant’s global sales team, where he is responsible for the company’s sales strategy, revenue growth and sales process. Greg brings more than 20 years of Software industry experience to his role. He has a consistent record of exceeding performance objectives in sales and sales management roles, and specializes in effectively developing and articulating complex solutions for c-level executives. Most recently, Greg was the VP of Worldwide Sales for IBM Pricing Solutions, responsible for SaaS sales, the sales process and strategy, International market development, and customer renewals. Prior to his role with IBM, Greg was the the Vice President of Sales for DemandTec. Greg previously held sales and sales management roles at Hyperion Solutions (now Oracle Retail), NCR’s Retail Solutions group, and Sybase (now SAP). Greg earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The University of Florida.

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