The pandemic years were high times for B2B technology providers as IT budgets surged to meet the requirements of remote work and digital commerce. Three years later, the industry is going through a reckoning. Smart business leaders are taking a hard look at all the tech they signed up for to make their remote lives easier and deciding what is truly necessary moving forward.
This shift in the industry has led to a more cautious approach toward buying in new software and technologies. Companies are now demanding concrete evidence of time-to-value and return on investment before committing to any purchases. As a result, sales teams are facing increased pressure to demonstrate the practical benefits and long-term value of their products to secure deals and maintain contracts on a multi-year basis.
4 Ways Generative AI Can Help Sales Reps
- AI can interpret buyer requirement documents.
- AI can craft personalized outreach at scale.
- AI can answer customer questions in real time.
- AI can produce videos for outreach.
At the same time, buyers are opting for less face-to-face communication and relying more on online reviews, analyst insights and virtual demos for vetting. Gartner reports that sales reps are only involved in 17 percent of a buyer’s purchasing activities, and buyers spend only a fraction of their time with any one sales rep. McKinsey adds that 94 percent of buyers prefer the pandemic-necessitated approach of remote sales and that eight in 10 buyers prefer a hybrid model that combines in-person, remote and digital engagement with their vendors.
Even with this new digital environment, many sales teams are still relying on basic office software such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel to build and deliver their value proposition. This can make it difficult and time consuming to tailor content to the customer.
Further, most sales applications are designed for internal use, not for sharing with the customer’s stakeholders. With the unrelenting pressure to keep closing deals, sales teams need a new way to influence their prospects when they’re not even in the room, and the old tools aren’t helping. It’s time to embrace generative AI.
The Case for Generative AI in Sales
Since Chat GPT became publicly available in November 2022, marketing and sales have been slow to adopt the tool. Only about 14 percent of respondents use it in marketing and sales, according to a McKinsey survey. The other 86 percent need to be thinking about it.
The availability of generative AI couldn’t be better timed for B2B sales. Sellers are challenged to convince a wider array of more skeptical stakeholders on complex solutions, and they need to be effective with less in-person selling time. That puts more reliance on the written word, on well-produced videos and on maximizing remote engagements. It’s not enough to just redistribute standard marketing assets. True to the nature of solution selling, sales teams need to use these mediums to deliver custom value propositions for their prospects.
Creating content with generative AI doesn't have to come at the expense of having a personalized interaction with buyers. In fact, generative AI can help the seller synthesize even more of the buyer’s prior comments and behavior, including their interactions with the seller’s digital channels, resulting in a highly tailored message.
The diligent seller should always take the additional step of reviewing the output and adding personal comments and anecdotes. This allows reps to deliver on what buyers are demanding in their engagement at scale without sacrificing personalized engagement.
4 Ways Generative AI Can Help Sales Reps Right Now
Fortunately, creating custom content is the essence of generative AI. The technology promises to save sales teams the intimidation of starting with a blank screen or the scavenger hunt of cutting-and-pasting from past deal materials. Here are a few of the opportunities:
1. AI Can Interpret Buyer Requirement Documents
First, AI can read. Purchasing departments often begin a procurement cycle by issuing lengthy requirements documents. Sales teams labor not only to draft a response but to interpret and research the very specific capabilities the customer is seeking.
The team will dig through documentation, post on internal message boards and seek out experts to search for answers. Generative AI tools are well suited to comprehend the customer's requirements and match the meaning and intent of those requirements against all the content within an organization.
2. AI Can Craft Personalized Outreach at Scale
Next, AI can write. Sales teams are often proud to deliver a well-crafted and hefty proposal, but none like the hours required to develop it. Further, given the complexity of modern solutions, many of which involve technical and compliance-related features, teams need to engage experts to get the content just right.
Generative AI is now ready to take on the drafting tasks, with the depth of knowledge to move between tough domains. With generative AI, sales teams can even step up to writing role-specific executive summaries for each of the decision makers.
3. AI Can Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time
AI can also respond. With customer stakeholders working remotely and communicating asynchronously with both the sales team and their own colleagues, why not answer their product questions and even legal questions in real-time via a bot? Unanswered questions can flow to the sales team with their responses training the bot to be even better.
4. AI Can Produce Videos for Outreach
Finally, AI can even produce. Video is the ultimate medium to engage remote customers, but it is costly and time consuming to produce, especially to professional standards. The next wave of generative AI rendering tools aims to change that, potentially putting quality animation and editing on the salesperson’s desk or even phone.
How to Get Started With Generative AI
Hybrid selling requires content and generative AI can provide it in both high quantities and at a high quality. Fortunately, getting started with generative AI is as simple as getting a Chat GPT free login. There’s a wave of new sales tools coming from both incumbents and start ups.
Despite all the potential, my advice to sales teams exploring generative AI echoes that of many AI insiders: “AI is a co-pilot, not an autopilot.” At least for now, sales teams need to remain in the process of both reviewing inbound and outbound content and fine tuning it based on their unique understanding of the situation. After all, it’s still the human, not the bot, earning the commission.