How Robots are Changing the Way we Sell

I had a talk about how AI is changing marketing and sales at Inbound 2016. The slides are available at http://content.inbound.com/content/ai-how-robots-are-changing-the-way-we-sell. Since the slides are not self-explanatory, I decided to write this companion post.

“No humans should perform slave work. It is not interesting, it is tiring and the payment is low. All work than can be classified as unworthy for humans should be automated.”

Professor Jens Glad Balchen, January 1966

The statement above by the late professor Balchen is from an interview in 1966. He was referring to automation of factories. It is still valid today with automation of more complex tasks.

AI is Here to Help

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Many companies outsource customer support. This is the first level of support where people essentially read back answer from frequently asked questions. This is routine work and is easily automated. The current limitation is in speech recognition, but bot interfaces for chat are straightforward and fully operational. Some companies harness natural language processing and machine learning to create reactionary, friendly robots that mimic human behaviour.

Many financial services companies are turning to artificial intelligence to keep up with demand. Robots can use predictive systems and market data to forecast stock trends and manage finances. Even financial advice is becoming automated, with a growing trend towards “robo-advisers” that automatically dispense advice and suggestions to financial clients, especially those with relatively simple financial problems.

In healthcare, there are numerous robots in various stages of testing and approval for diagnosing disease. Robotic trolleys move things around in hospitals. Systems like IBM’s Watson have a higher accuracy rate for diagnosis than human doctors. You can even chat with apps like Your.MD to determine the cause of your symptoms. To put that in context, the vast majority of people on our planet do not have easy access to medical professionals. They mostly have phones so an app like that will improve their quality of life.

To circle back to the opening quote, manufacturing automated most of their repetitive tasks to robots a long time ago. Most cars are built by robots. Packaging and shipment at least of smaller goods are fully automated and handled by robots.

There are several downsides for using people for repetitive work; they make mistakes because they are distracted, because they are tired and random unexplainable mistakes. Robots don’t get tired or distracted.

There is no reason to fear AI. Think of AI as Assisting Intelligence rather than Artificial Intelligence. In Marketing, the boring, repetitive work will be handled by AI; leaving humans to focus on the more interesting work.

Handling Inbound Leads

Inbound leads are your most valuable leads. They have told you that they are interested in your product. They want more information from you. If you call them back, you should provide advise. You should never call and say you are from ACME and proceed to demo a product and ask them whether they want to buy. You need to prepare before picking up the phone. Do your research and figure out what the company is doing. When you call, you should have a general idea about what the lead wants, and you should provide advise.

AI can do this research for you.

Putting AI to Work

Let’s assume you get 100 inbound leads. This is luxury. Manually researching and reaching out to all of those leads is time consuming. However, there are existing AI based tools that can help you with this.

Let’s assume one of your leads is “New Balance”. You need to learn more about the company. You should find out what their approximate revenue is, what industries they are and more. The more you know about the company, the better. Of course, you should also know more about their competition.

Creating Inbound Leads

You should craft targeted message for each vertical you want to reach out to. Also, you should limit the cost of your campaign by not reaching out to companies outside your target markets.

Needless to say, you should cover 100% of your territory with targeted ads. If you do outbound sales, you should focus on your top 20%. There is technology available today that will help you do this.

AI Recommendation Engine Expands Leads

Your next customer should have something in common with the last customer you landed.
You are more likely to successfully sell to a company in the same industry as your existing customers. If your are landing mostly mid-sized companies, you should not spend time trying to land either small or big customers.

AI can help expand your leads by recommending similar companies to reach out to.

Focus your time where your likelihood of success is maximised.

Know Your TRUE ADDRESSABLE ThiMARKET

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Think about your total addressable market prior to AI as an apple tree. Your sales people were actively monitoring and reaching out to companies in the market and mostly there was nothing.

AI based recommendation engines may help expand your market. Your lone apple tree is now an orchard. Of course, this might not be seen as a benefit if maintaining the original market was enough or too much for the sales staff.

Now, AI can monitor your orchard for you and tell you when your potential customers are ready to buy. You will now be presented with low hanging fruits from your friendly AI. Focus your effort on these and your orchard will be much more valuable than that single tree.

You are not able to monitor your accounts every day, but AI can!

Trivia: The original title of the talk was “I’ve never met a robot I couldn’t sell to”

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