The early 2000s saw a dramatic shift in how businesses sold their products and services. This shift had to do with the first sales-specific software, such as CRMs, which powered funnel management. Later, social media and search engines allowed salespeople to reach out and touch their target audience with specific ads. In the 2020s, these advances have gone stale, leaving many sales professionals curious about what comes next.
The Harvard Business Review reports that cold calling is ineffective 90% of the time, and more recent research shows that less than 2% of cold calls result in a meeting. Assuming a 0.3% appointment-booking rate and a 20% win rate, it would take 6,264 cold calls to make just four sales. These statistics should not come as a surprise, especially if you are someone who is on the phone every day with prospects. So what are sales professionals to do?
What comes next?
With cold calls netting so few sales and with cold email marketing performing just as poorly (the average response rate of a cold email is 1%) salespeople need to change up their arsenal. And the technology making the most waves right now for salespeople is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is helping companies boost lead volume, close rate, and overall sales performance.
Forward-thinking companies are catching on to that fact. According to a Salesforce State of Sales report, sales leaders expect their AI adoption to grow faster than any other technology. Salesforce also found that high-performing teams are 4.9X more likely to be using AI than underperforming ones.
Yet AI is not replacing salespeople. The vast majority of companies using AI or planning also plan to increase staff. That is because AI is creating practical value for sales teams by automating, augmenting, and supercharging the way they work.
Why should you care?
The challenge for any company is always finding new ways to grow their revenue, reduce costs, and expand market share while minimizing risks. It’s become apparent to leading-edge companies that leveraging their existing internal database, and mining it for new opportunities using AI, will allow them to do so prudently. If data is indeed the new oil, then companies who can capture the data, analyze it, and generate actionable insights will have salespeople who will close more deals, more often.
The biggest factor in determining which companies successfully leverage AI, and those that do not, may just come down to you. Lynne Zaledonis,
SVP of Product Marketing at Salesforce breaks down, “All in all, one of the biggest challenges with AI is learning to trust it. In the early days of cloud computing, there was a certain level of skepticism: Is my data really safe? Can I really access my files all of the time? Now we don’t think twice about it.” The same type of scenario is happening with AI. Often, salespeople still do not fully trust an AI recommendation — even when the data backs it up. The whole point of AI is to help sales be more productive and profitable, but it can only happen if we open up to this new type of relationship and information.