It is Sales & Marketing Alignment month on SalesPOP! So continuing our series on artificial intelligence, let’s now take a look at AI and how it fits in with Sales & Marketing Alignment.
As we know by evaluating the current state of Sales & Marketing Alignment, it is still a major challenge to get these two groups working in unity. Yet in today it’s vital that they do–if only because in today’s digital marketplace it’s getting more and more difficult to tell where exactly Marketing ends and Sales begins. Although there are clear opinions on the subject, we have never totally solved the question of lead generation being specifically a Marketing or a Sales activity.
When looking at lead nurturing, though, one normally thinks of this as a Marketing activity. Not all salespeople today can or do generate their own leads, so Sales depends on Marketing to nurture them until they become qualified. Salespeople must have properly qualified leads, simply because incorrectly qualified leads lead to no sales. A wrong lead wastes salesperson time–not because the salesperson is being arrogant about it, but simply because it’s their job to sell. You can’t work with an incorrect lead; you can’t sell a car to someone who is actually interested in a motorcycle.
Then we come to the area of lead management. This area is not only only quite expensive and very complex, it requires tight organization so that time isn’t wasted. An example of today’s lead management is the channelling of visitors into and through a website. This activity includes SEO optimization of content, and is a science in itself.
This type of lead management is pure marketing, and artificial intelligence will increasingly enter into it as time goes on. That is because AI can be used to analyze enormous amounts of content, and qualify it through different kinds of pattern recognition systems.
AI and Lead Qualifying
When does a lead become a real opportunity? When does the buyer decide that they’re interested, and what is it that triggers that interest? It might be an internally motivated need–something the company really requires and for which it is actively searching. It could also be something that is motivated from outside–the case of “they didn’t know they wanted it until they saw it.” AI would be able to analyze either instance.
In my opinion, salespeople should sell instead of trying to track down hot leads. Leads should come from intelligent marketing, and here is where AI comes more into the game. Today we have all manner of increasingly precise search algorithms, for example, which are of course a form of AI.
AI can be used in this and many other ways for defining the right target group, tracking its behavior and their interest. If it’s a seasonal product, for example, we’re now coming up to Christmas, so you have an idea how to engage your particular target group.
Within a target group, AI could also find the right buyer and even the right time for engagement. If a buyer has been searching for a product or service such as yours, AI, through analyzing search behavior, can see interest piquing. The prospect could then be reached out to with different messages according to their behavior–written content, video or any other medium–to be nurtured up until the time an appointment is actually booked. It’s a cue-based platform.
AI–Up Until Live Sales
As you can see, I truly believe that everything could be effectively automated–right up until the time for human interaction. As noted in an earlier article in this series, there are far too many variables for AI to take the lead in live sales engagement.
Yet, as touched on in that same earlier article, despite the incredible number of variables found in live sales cycles, there is at least one company making incredible claims for their AI-based CRM product. For example, they’re saying their product will predict the lead most likely to convert, based on 2 or 3 factors; the problem is that there can be many other factors involved that could throw such a prediction wildly off. They’re also saying their AI product would scan email calendar activity and reveal key opportunity insights. My question would be, just given that limited amount of data, how could they possibly do that? And what would happen if a sales rep neglected to log an email?
One does wonder if such data would all come out of AI. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal uncovered the fact that there are likely hundreds of thousands of people whose work is sold as AI.
In any case, I believe that once a lead becomes an opportunity and begins working its way through a sales cycle, AI would cease, except for perhaps having a supporting role, such as providing collateral through each phase of the sales cycle. And this, of course, would be part of Sales & Marketing alignment.
Will AI take a more central role as time goes on? This is certainly possible. But as I said at the beginning of the series, we can only focus on the state of AI as it exists, and not make promises (as some CRM companies are doing) that cannot be kept with current technology.
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