November 28 by Ryan Gould

Those who’ve been in the marketing and sales game long enough likely remember all the hype and false starts surrounding AI and machine learning even as recently as a few years ago. AI-powered forecasting was often touted as the next big thing, the great new trend, but it typically proved unreliable when it came time to deliver on all those accurate forecasts it promised.

However, the beauty of machine learning is that it is always learning. As it feeds off data it evolves and as the technology has advanced, it has allowed sales forecasting companies to launch impressive AI-powered platforms that are revolutionizing sales and predictive analysis. These forecasting software tools, like those produced by Clari as well Salesforce Einstein, are outperforming human sales representatives (more on this below).

Here are 4 key points marketers need to know about where AI and predictive sales are right now, and what that signifies for the future.

 

Predictive sales engines consider all data signals

And they analyze far more data sets than any human ever could. This AI-powered software gathers data about everything, from past deals to meetings to phone conversations to email correspondence and more. Obviously this software looks at successful interactions and sales strategies even more crucially, it takes into account all the failures, such as lost deals. By analyzing what went wrong, the AI can adjust the predictions to tell you what is most likely to go right.

Contextual data plays a role too: AI platforms can classify images and even glean insight from the weather and traffic conditions—anything that can help inform lead scoring and predict sales patterns. This is the power of deep-learning technology and the ability to consider all data signals.

AI picks up where marketing left off

You may not realize it, but this brave new sales world actually has its roots in marketing. You can draw a direct line from the rise in AI-powered forecasting software to those marketing automation platforms that are so effective in the enterprise world. Those platforms have been utilizing AI powered lead scoring for years to get results.

Even with that the technology wasn’t living up to its potential in terms of conversions. That’s because, as far as the lead-generation funnel is concerned, the majority of qualified leads come through sales initiatives rather than marketing initiatives. There was this entire gap that wasn’t being filled, and yet AI was just waiting to solve this problem. That brings us directly to the next point…

AI eliminates sales blind spots and improves forecast accuracy

artificial intelligenceModern AI-powered sales forecasting can eliminate what has traditionally been an ingrained problem for sales reps: failure to meet quotas. And marketers know only too well that when sales teams miss the mark, it creates a ripple effect that upsets the entire business, negatively impacting marketing’s effort as well.

Does AI-powered sales forecasting work? According to a poll conducted by Clari, a predictive sales management platform, 93% of respondents who implemented the platform reported improved forecast accuracy, with 60% seeing increased close rates. Many even reported doubling their forecast accuracy. Imagine what that kind of boost in effectiveness and efficiency would do for both the sales and marketing teams at your company?

AI predictive sales engines work with sales reps but they don’t replace them

AI predictive sales engines are not a fully automated service. While the idea of a set-it-and-forget-it software solution that automatically boosts forecast accuracy is certainly attractive, the technology isn’t there yet. Because the robot uprising has yet to occur, that means we still live in a world governed by human beings and human decision making. Therefore, if you want to see the kinds of results companies like Clari are boasting about, then you need to make sure your reps are feeding AI the right data.

If you’re a marketer who’s not seeing the increase in qualified leads that you’d expect with a much-touted new piece of AI software, it’s likely the data that’s the culprit. If a sales rep doesn’t input the details of a potential deal into the system, then the AI engine simply won’t have the data to do its job. Reps often don’t input this info for a variety of reasons, not least because they don’t want to alert sales managers to a deal that looks to be impending but still might fall apart.

That said, if reps do input the data about potential deals into these new AI engines, they can then effectively analyze it and increase the chances of the rep closing said deals. Only by humans holding up their end of the bargain by inputting data will both marketing and sales see more qualified leads and ultimately more conversions.

 

Conclusion

Obviously we’re in a new dawn where AI-based predictive sales is streamlining the entire sales process. It’s removing the “gut instinct” factor from the equation and replacing it with real insight from hard data. Why marketers should take notice of this is simple: any elimination of blind spots in the sales department is going to help marketing. So, done right, on top of boosting sales accuracy rates and leading more conversions, it will help eliminate departmental silos and further align sales and marketing.

 

About Elevation Marketing

Elevation is a national, full service, B2B marketing agency that looks at your brand through the lens of your business. We believe in data-driven, strategic solutions that bridge the marketing and sales gap to drive business growth. With an extensive team of in-house specialists who are dedicated to providing unique insight into the challenges facing your business, we are passionate about executing campaigns that deliver real ROI for your organization.

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