The Art of Artificial Intelligence in B2B Sales
AI in B2B sales: How exactly can B2B companies use Artificial Intelligence to support their sales?
The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) are very diverse. It is not without reason that big players such as Apple, Facebook, Google or Samsung pour billions in the development of new AI technologies.
The management consultancy KPMG estimates that global AI investments will increase from twelve billion US dollars (2018) to 232 billion by 2025.
In contrast to other nations, however, German companies are somewhat cautious and sceptical about AI applications. According to a study by the Federal Ministry of Economics, only 5% of German companies use AI, and about 3 out of 10 companies consider using it in the next ten years (summer 2018).
Let’s take the mystery out of artificial intelligence. How can AI make your B2B sales more successful?
We will first explain in an understandable way what AI can do today – and what it can’t do. Based on this, we will show you different possibilities of how you can use AI for your B2B company in the field of sales.
What exactly is behind artificial intelligence?
When you think of “artificial intelligence”, do you also see Arnold Schwarzenegger as a terminator in front of your inner eye as he stretches out his hand and says: “Come with me if you want to live…!”?
However, a machine that can think and act independently is still science fiction. Experts separate AI between “strong” and “weak” (also “general” and “narrow”).
Weak artificial intelligence refers to systems that provide a solution for concrete application problems. As a basis for problem-solving, it employs mathematics and computer science, specially developed for a requirement. The resulting system can improve itself through its algorithms – in other words, the system learns from existing data.
In contrast, strong (or general) artificial intelligence means rather what we know from science fiction movies. The goal of a general AI entity is to achieve or exceed the same intellectual skills of humans. So far, however, this is pure fantasy. Whether the development of such intelligence is possible at all is still in discussion. Experts enamoured to the opinion that general AI is likely, speak of a period of 20 – 40 years. All AI systems in existence today fall under the concept of weak AI – a simple fact.
Therefore, to the question “what exactly is behind AI” one can answer: mathematics and computer science in the form of different algorithms.
You have certainly used AI in your everyday life before: Text recognition, image recognition, speech recognition, automated translation programs, expert systems (e.g. deriving recommendations for action on the basis of a knowledge database) and navigation systems are just a few examples of applications for AI.
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How can AI strengthen sales teams?
Sales staff are often under enormous pressure. They must meet quotas, take care of their customers, attend meetings and do dull and tedious things like research and documentation.
AI and machine learning can help with standardizable and repetitive tasks. Automation programs are designed to handle time-consuming but straightforward tasks such as searching the Internet for specific data or sending personalized e-mails. Using AI to perform time-consuming and low return tasks allows sales staff to concentrate more on their strengths – interacting with customers.
Another way in which AI can strengthen sales is through data analysis programs. Digitization offers companies in the B2B sector many opportunities to increase sales and efficiency. However, manual structuring and analysis of a large amount of data are time-consuming and error-prone tasks. Therefore, most companies use only a fraction of their data, and the rest remains unused in data archives.
AI-based predictive sales analytics software calculates sales forecasts, cross-selling opportunities, customer churn and pricing scope based on existing sales data. This information can be used by sales teams for targeted and effective action to increase productivity.
Companies that use AI hire employees.
A common concern is that AI systems will replace distribution jobs. In this respect, one can breathe a sigh of relief. A recent study with 3000 managers showed that companies that already rely on AI are increasing their team-count by 76%.
The results of this study also confirm our opinion. As software providers for predictive sales analytics, we see AI applications as support for sales teams and not as replacements. A program can be as smart as it wants; it remains a program.
We are still (fortunately) in the area of “weak AI”, which “only” aims to find an efficient solution for specific application problems. Interpersonal interaction and the experience of long-standing sales employees are irreplaceable.
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The Art of Artificial Intelligence in B2B Sales – Summary
Terminator is and remains science fiction. Today’s AI systems fall under the concept of “weak artificial intelligence”. They solve specific tasks significantly better than humans using software and mathematical algorithms.
AI software is capable of learning from existing data and drawing new conclusions. Only about 5% of companies in Germany use this potential. For this reason, our tip is: don’t let the term artificial intelligence put you off. Think about whether such a program can also support your processes so that you can gain an advantage over your competitors.
There are many ways in which AI can strengthen sales. Automation programs, for example, can support your sales team in standardized and recurring tasks. Alternatively, you can use data analysis software to predict which of your customers could churn, which pricing options you have and where cross-selling possibilities exist.
AI-based software efficiently supports B2B sales so that salespeople can focus on their core business: To take care of their customers.
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Bauer, B. (2017): Die Kunst hinter der künstlichen Intelligenz. Ed.: Absatzwirtschaft
Bürger, M. et. al. (2018): Potenziale der künstlichen Intelligenz im produzierenden Gewerbe in Deutschland. Ed.: Begleitforschung PAiCE, p. 16-19
Ramani, V.: Künstliche Intelligenz hebt den Vertrieb auf ein neues Level. Ed.: Vertriebsmanager
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