From the start-up needing early sales to demonstrate its viability to investors, the scale-up looking for the next round of funding or the established multinational attempting to stay ahead of the competition, sales is the lifeblood of business.
Machine learning is making waves in every area of business and sales is no different. Incorporating machine learning into sales software allows businesses to sell efficiently and effectively. As the technology progresses, the landscape of sales is shifting towards machine learning. In a survey of 168 companies with at least $500 million in annual revenue published by MIT Sloan Management Review, 76% of respondents said they are ‘targeting higher sales growth with machine learning’.
What are the four ways machine learning is revolutionising the sales process?
Finding new customers is essential for sales growth. Any way that a business can improve its lead generation and gain an edge is welcome, and machine learning is doing exactly that for new companies.
Revolutionising the way in which we process data, machine learning can now ensure every contact in a company’s database is accurate. It can seek out stale information across billions of data points in the private and public domain then go through a verification process to ascertain the correct data. When information on leads is accurate, it ensures salespeople do not waste time trying to contact people who left the company years ago. It also allows for extremely pinpointed segmentation, so that businesses can build ideal client personas for outbound marketing campaigns. As we all know, this level of detail can make or break a business, so this new strategy is an incredibly innovative step forward for the future of sales.
Sales teams also use machine learning to help with lead scoring, the process of evaluating a lead to ascertain how near they are to buying the product. Machine learning-powered software analyses all contact between the business and the lead (emails, calls etc.) and tells the salesperson what to do next to move them along the sales funnel. Machine learning also powers automated email marketing campaigns, sending out personalised content to the right people, at a time they will be most receptive.
Because it costs money to acquire a customer, the most efficient way to grow revenue is to sell more products to the customers you already have. To achieve this, companies are harnessing the power of machine learning.
Of course, the master of cross-selling is Amazon. When you purchase a product on Amazon, it has an uncanny ability of immediately recommending a similar product, which in turn, encourages you to then go and buy this product. That’s because Amazon uses machine learning to trawl its 150 million-strong database to identify buying patterns. It identifies which products are often bought together and shows them to you at precisely the right time to make you purchase.
‘Amazon’s total dominance of total E-commerce sales last year, along with its acquisition of Whole Foods, will likely continue to claim several victims that fail to compete in the months and years ahead.’ – Hampleton M&A market report 1H 2018, E-commerce
Machine learning doesn’t just power the online world either. Hyatt Hotels uses machine learning voice recognition to listen to the calls when guests phone up to book stays. It then collates the data and matches it with their database to predict what upgrades a particular guest might want, in seconds. It allows Hyatt to sell more products, speed up their check-in and provide a better experience for their guests.
In the arena of telesales, sales scripts are essential. They help a business find a sales approach that is repeatable and produces the best outcomes. The power of machine learning to listen and analyse voice calls is helping companies create the perfect sales script.
‘Natural Language Processing (NLP) consists of the application of self-learning algorithms to analyse and synthesise natural language and speech. The broad spectrum of functions associated with language processing AI is creating substantial interest from technology companies looking to extend product lines’
Heiko Garrelfs, AI Sector Principal
Machine learning has the capability to record, transcribe and analyse hundreds of thousands of calls across an entire organisation. Plus, the more calls the machine learning analyses, the better a picture it builds up.
Machine learning can also pick out the anatomy of successful sales calls in that it picks up the exact words said at the exact time of the conversation; the magic words that won the sale. Similarly, it can also deduce what words turn the prospect off. Based on that information, it’s then easy to construct a script that works.
It can also work in real-time to flash advice to sales reps’ screens, helping them say the right thing at the right time.
Of course, forecasting sales revenue is essential for the smooth running of a business. You need an accurate picture of revenue coming in to know what you can spend. Hiring, acquisition, capital procurement, may all depend on an accurate forecast soit’s essential to get it right.
In the past, businesses would forecast based on what they brought in last year, with a bit of added ‘gut feeling’. Now machine learning can produce accurate forecasts and adapt them to unforeseen events on the fly. It does this by analysing all a company’s historical data from numerous different sources, then tallying it up with current activity.
What is the future of machine learning in sales?
We’ve seen how machine learning is helping businesses transform the way they sell their products and services. From super-accurate lead gen, to cross-selling, to sales scripts built for success, to forecasting, machine learning is now a valuable part of any sales team. Of course, the technology is developing all the time. Who knows how businesses will be selling in five years’ time? We’re only at the start of what’s possible.
Interesting companies that we are keeping an eye on include:
Cognism is the smart all-in-one B2B marketing and sales acceleration solution. A GDPR compliant way to prospect leads and enrich data. www.cognism.com
Ebsta helpsempower thousands of fast-growing companies to engage their customers at scale. www.ebsta.comBetter Proposals Send professional looking proposals in half the time with Better Proposals. Close more deals with in depth analytics and digital signatures. https://betterproposals.io/
Clari – AI-driven sales forecasting and pipeline management software B2B sales teams use to sell, forecast, and close more deals, predictably. https://www.clari.com/
Don’t let the machine learning revolution pass you by. To keep up to date with new developments in the Artificial Intelligence and machine learning arena that can boost your bottom line, download your Hampleton Partner AI report today.
Heiko Garrelfs is Hampleton Partners’ Sector Principal for Artificial Intelligence, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality and Machine Learning. Heiko’s technology career includes 10 years as a senior consultant at Siemens AG. Heiko then founded and advised a number of start-ups before setting-up his own company in the VR/AR sector to implement innovative projects. Connect with Heiko on LinkedIn and Email.