2020 AI-for-Sales Research Report – Exec Summary

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Introduction

Sales Mastery conducted its second annual AI-for-Sales survey, gathering 500 responses between 2/03/20 and 3/27/20. On the first day we received survey responses, there were only 11 cases (0 deaths) of COVID-19 in New York city which was the early epicenter. These numbers jumped to 52,300 (728 deaths) by the time our survey closed.  This was 1 week after California became the first state to mandate COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. To say the least, a great deal has happened since early February and, in many ways, B2B sales have changed dramatically.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes is that digital transformation initiatives that were planned out over 2-3 years were compressed into just a few weeks. Nearly all calls have become virtual, versus in-person, both accelerating the adoption of technologies (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet) and opening new possibilities such as call coaching (e.g., Salesforce Voice, Chorus.ai).

This acceleration is especially important and relevant to point out, since our original survey population was divided into 3 segments: 1) firms already implementing AI-for-Sales; 2) those planning to do so in the coming 12 months; and 3) those that had evaluated AI-for-Sales and decided against implementing anything at the time of their response.

Again, we want to clarify that because of the study design objective of ensuring representation from all three use cases, these figures DO NOT reflect the market penetration of AI-for-Sales. Our ongoing benchmarking continues to see that the percentage of companies that have implemented AI solutions, while rising, remains in single digits. Still, we continue to see more sales organizations opting to fully evaluate these solutions.

Impact on Seller & Sales Manager Performance Now and in 3 Years

The efficiency assessment ratings for sales managers (chart below) are in line with those of sellers, while the effectiveness ratings came in higher at 70.4%. One contributing factor to this is that AI is giving managers key metrics on how their sales teams are selling and the rate at which deals are moving (or not moving) through the sales funnel.

Looking to the near future, the numbers tell two stories (chart below). First, a strong majority, 81.2%, see AI-for-Sales as a key addition to CRM, or something even more significant. Second, our past studies have often seen impact numbers drop from the first year of a study to the second as the excitement and promise of new innovations get replaced by reality. So far, this is not the case with AI-for-Sales as key addition/game changer ratings compare favorably at 93.5% this year, compared to the 80.5% figure from the 2019 survey.

Advice from Existing AI-for-Sales Users to Their Peers

  • Be Late to AI-for-Sales at Your Own Peril
  • AI Requires Good Data
  • AI is Part of a Solution Framework
  • Optimize Your Processes First
  • Think Long-term, But Act Short-term
  • Invest in Training to Help Sellers Fully Leverage AI
  • AI-for-Sales is Top-down, not Bottom-up

This is not a traditional sales effectiveness initiative that a CSO/CRO can assign to an individual and say, “Make it happen.” Instead, this needs to have ongoing sponsorship at the senior sales management level, if not at the executive leadership level. The announcement that AI-for-Sales is going to be a reality needs to come to the organization from the top and be reinforced regularly so the organization understands that this will be the new reality for your business.

And as noted above, these are not traditional times. The Army used to say there were 2 kinds of bayonet fighters: The Quick & the Dead. The same may be said a year from now, that there were 2 kinds of AI-for-Sales adopters.

Questions? Please contact barry@salesmastery.com;+1 916-712-9621 | jim.dickie@salesmastery.com; +1 303-521-44101

Barry Trailer

Barry Trailer

Barry is co-founder of Sales Mastery, a sales research and advisory firm focused on AI-for-Sales solutions and Sales as a Profession. His 40 years of sales and sales management expertise including co-founder of CSO Insights, (acquired by Miller Heiman/Korn+Ferry), president of Miller Heiman, and president of Goldmine software. Barry has researched thousands of companies, and coached advisory clients to successfully transform their sales organizations. He has a rich background and proficiency in all things B2B sales and brings this expertise to advisory services clients, sellers, and sales leaders through speaking engagements (pre-COVID), articles, videos, social posts, and more. He is currently an author/adviser to CustomerThink.com. He has written for numerous publications and has been twice published in the Harvard Business Review and was twice a keynote for HBR’s Warsaw Sales Summit.

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