2020 AI for Sales Research Report

Executive Summary

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.

The efficiency assessment ratings for sales managers (chart at right) 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 (see 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.

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