Productivity is a marathon, not a sprint. However, many sales teams don’t operate this way.

Reps often casually jog through the first two months of the quarter and are forced to chaotically race toward their goal during the last few weeks.

It’s up to sales management and operations to set the pace by building a sales process and tech stack that helps them manage their time efficiently and steadily.

By adding smart sales AI tools to your organization, you can set a swift and steady tempo that increases the productivity of each sales rep year round.

What exactly is sales AI? It’s any tool that utilizes artificial intelligence to improve the sales process. There are a ton of applications for sales AI; the two main functions though are automation and augmentation of the sales process.

Automation is when a tool performs a piece of the sales process (static roles like data entry, tracking and research tasks) with little-to-no human interference. Augmented intelligence helps sales reps work smarter, like identifying cross-and-upsell opportunities.

Let’s dive into the different ways you can implement both automated and augmented sales AI solutions in your organization. We’ve also pulled out our favorite tools to help kickstart your implementation process.

1. Automation

A sales automation platform can perform a sales process or part of a sales process through static roles. What that means is that it does a task with little-to-no manual effort from the sales rep. Since reps spend 64% of their time on activities other than selling, there are many automation opportunities that could save them time and help them generate more revenue.

One example is converting leads to the next stage in the CRM based on triggers. Say you send a POC document to a prospect via email. An automation tool could detect that and convert that lead into the evaluation stage in the CRM.

Another example is saving reps time on CRM data entry and updates. Did you know that sales reps perform 300 CRM updates each week? A CRM automation tool could log and update those records automatically, saving hours of productivity each week.

SalesHero is a sales automation platform that automates CRM updates, prospecting, contact and account research and scheduling. While it removes much of the cognitive load for sales reps, it doesn’t take humans out of the loop.

2. Next-step recommendations

There are also AI tools that augment sales rep behavior and give recommendations on the next steps they should take with a prospect, helping sales reps make better (smarter) choices to increase their efficiency and improve win rates.  

These kinds of intelligence tools have several applications, like building a follow-up cadence or giving engagement recommendations.

Most sales (80%) require five follow-ups after initial contact, but most reps only follow up once. A tool like Outreach can augment follow-up cadences to prevent deals from falling through the cracks.

Other tools, like Highspot, suggest marketing content to send to prospects so the message is highly-targeted and more likely to convert.

3. Lead scoring and prospecting

Sales reps have identified prospecting as the most challenging part of the sales process. It can be difficult to determine when a customer is ready to buy and to know which deals to pursue first if there are lots of leads in the pipeline.  

Intelligent sales and marketing AI tools can make this process much easier for sales reps by offering up hot accounts based on previous data and prioritizing leads with scoring algorithms. These tools help sales reps focus their attention on leads and accounts that are more likely to convert so their time is used much more efficiently than it would be blindly going after cold accounts.

Hatchbuck helps sales and marketing teams do just that by alerting them when leads exhibit buying behavior, such as reading a certain piece of content on your site, visiting certain webpages or downloading a resource. It gives each of these hot prospects a score to let reps know which ones to invest time into first.

4. Process analytics

Then there are tools that analyze the sales funnel as a whole and monitor rep activities and behaviors to optimize the process. These tools help managers and operations teams see where certain reps may need more training and which processes and behaviors are more likely to convert customers.

There are traditional reporting tools that are slowly integrating with intelligent capabilities, like Insightsquared that break down sales stages and show rep conversion rate, speed and lead drop-off rates.

Then there are tools like Gong that monitor a sales rep’s interactions with prospects to optimize sales conversations. These can help with increasing conversion rates, but proceed with caution as you need to inform customers that calls are being recorded.

5. Chatbots

Finally, a chatbot is a software designed to replicate human conversations. Most inbound leads are looking for a response within five minutes after filling out a contact form, yet many companies don’t reply until five days later.

Chatbots can be the first line of defense to prevent deals from falling through the cracks so that inbound leads get immediate attention. Conversational marketing platforms, like Drift, can help sales and marketing teams by increasing their response speed to inbound leads, capture lead information and, in some cases, can help pre-qualify leads.  

Author Bio

Jessica Munday is a content marketing specialist at SalesHero, a San Francisco-based startup that’s building a sales AI assistant to automate CRM and administrative tasks to give sales reps back their selling time.