Monday, April 24, 2017

Will AI Boost Our Sales Numbers?

There's an increasing amount of noise in the market about how AI will either replace sales people or dramatically improve their productivity.

I'm not so bullish. In talking with a wide range of companies about their marketing and sales technologies, I identified a couple of common themes:

Life is Complicated Enough

Companies are finding it quite difficult to get value from their existing core marketing automation, sales automation and CRM platforms. Additional capabilities complicate existing processes, stretch already thin data, and don't necessarily improve marketing or sales productivity.

They've invested millions into these core systems, worked to build new processes and workflows to leverage the new capabilities, and have found that lack of expertise, process skills, data quality, organizational alignment and simple patience all stand in the way of success.

CMOs, VP of Marketing or Demand Gen and others need to get value from the systems they already have, and they are stretched pretty thin. Frankly, many of their people (and organizations) are struggling to keep up with the demands of the existing core systems.

While AI is being offered as a silver bullet to their problems, most are simply saying "no thanks."

Pockets of Success Do Exist

Predictive analytics for sales and marketing has been in use in a handful of  large companies for more than 10 years. And the key to success for those companies has been extremely knowledgeable, inquisitive people running the systems in centralized service bureaus. I've worked with some of those people. They are wicked smart.

Artwork source: Christian Pearce Blog
Sales for Dummies...or by Dummies?

One challenge is that the promise of sales "AI" reduces the perceived need to hire smart sales people. This is a Very Bad Idea. Right now customers are clamoring for just the opposite...they demand more consultative sales people who can help them to evaluate and reduce organizational (and personal) risk.

Sales bots won't do that. Ever have the experience of shopping for something on Amazon, and then seeing banner ads for those or similar items on many websites for days or weeks? Sales bots may well spew similar outbound digital effluvia, much to the dismay of prospective customers.

In survey after survey, enterprise customers are clear about their needs and expectations. What they want is smarter sales people...those who understand their business and are curious about how to engage effectively and to co-create to drive business value.

Or maybe I'm wrong. But I've seen this story play out more than a few times before...



Monday, April 10, 2017

Lack of Planning Results in the Bread of Affliction

By YoninahOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
When the Jewish people were forced out of Egypt several thousand years ago, they did not have time to prepare for their exodus. They packed what they could and left town. As fast-food had not yet been invented, they carried their food for the journey. With the short travel notice, their bread did not have time to rise and they were stuck with flat crackerlike sheets that crumble and have little taste. Properly called "matzoh," we also refer to it as the "bread of affliction."

In my travels, I've seen sales reps and account teams handle account or call planning much the same way -- leaving little or no time for the preparation that ensures good results. A senior exec at one enterprise software company half-jokingly stated that the best call planning at his company takes place in New York. Why? The elevator rides are longer in New York, giving teams more time for their planning.

So we'll keep this Passover message short and sweet. If you want to avoid flat, crumbly revenue opportunities, take time in advance to conduct your account and call planning.

Relatively small improvements in planning, such as customer participation and ensuring that planning is a process rather than a document, will drive significant uplift in revenue, share of wallet, deal profitability, customer satisfaction, NPS and more.