As we started the analysis of our third annual AI-for-Sales study, the observation by Bill Gates on the previous page came to mind. When we conducted the initial study in 2019, we observed that the attitudes toward the impact that AI could/will have on sales spanned the gambit from being viewed as the single factor that will decide which companies thrive or die on one end of the spectrum to being seen as the next iteration in a series of over-hyped technology fads. Based on that view, we were looking forward to seeing what the trends were from this year’s study, as we are seeing the market start to mature and opinions being replaced with perspectives based on real-world experiences.
The input received from the 450+ participants in this year’s survey provided a clearer picture of how AI-for-Sales is evolving from three different perspectives; those companies that have implemented AI solutions, those that are evaluating or plan to evaluate AI solutions in the next 12 months, and those sales organizations that have no current interest in investigating if/how AI could impact their sales performance. Looking at this year’s data and the experiences being reported by AI-for-Sales users, compared to the two previous years, four key trends emerged:
- AI Solution Expansion Continues, But Selective Contraction is on the Horizon: The AI solutions marketplace continues to grow in two ways; more players are adding AI to their traditional SaaS sales enablement capabilities and are entering into the market with unique innovations.
- The Evolution of AI Point Solutions to AI Sales Suites is Happening; but Slowly: As you will see, there is no lack of solutions to address a variety of individual sales challenges, but still missing is the comprehensive sharing of insights between these point solutions so companies can effectively address the bigger issue of optimizing customer lifecycle management (CLM).
- The Probability of Another AI Winter is Fading Quickly: Those who have been around AI for decades saw it emerge every several years surrounded by a new round of hope. But then that hope was dashed as the technology proved, yet again, that it was not ready for primetime, and it went back into hibernation. The results this time continue to be positive to the point that, at least for optimizing sales performance, AI is here to stay.
- The Need to Deal with the Ethical Issues of Using AI is Becoming an Issue: Sales organizations are finding innovative ways to leverage AI to surface new insights into what their sales team members and their customers are doing. But in doing so, a question is arising…While we can do these things, is it ethical to do them?
We hope the findings are useful to you in two ways. The first is that they provide a window into what AI is currently capable of doing to optimize your current sales performance in ways you have not seen before. But more importantly, we would like the report to serve as a catalyst to motivate your organization to explore the potential that AI represents regarding totally redefining the relationship between buyers and sellers over the next few years. If you have any questions on this research effort or the 2021 report, please feel free to contact us directly.