Thanks to big data, sales professionals have access to more customer information than ever before. AI algorithms offer a way to analyze that mountain of data and put it to work at the right place in the sales cycle. Since business-friendly AI systems are still in their early stages of development, it's important to consider whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
AI algorithms might seem like magic, but implementing them is a long and complex process. To be useful for your company's particular sales needs, an AI system must be programmed with specific terminology, parameters and metrics related to your customers and products — efforts that take time and no small amount of trial and error. Depending on the scope and scale of this endeavor, the initial deployment can take up to a year. For some companies, a lengthy rollout is not a feasible use of resources.
Most AI technology has not reached the point where it is available off the shelf. Unless you happen to have an AI expert on staff, you must hire professionals to program the AI algorithms, design a user interface and conduct testing. Once the system is in place, sales staff training comes into play, and in the long term, there are maintenance and upkeep tasks to consider as well. Each of these steps comes with a significant cost, all before you reap any significant benefits.
AI algorithms make big data more accessible and usable, so you can predict buyer behavior and create a targeted product release strategy. Depending on your company's size, this information may or may not be useful. A company with a varied product line and a large customer base might use algorithms to tell salespeople the best times to reach out to specific customers, based on purchase history, browsing history and regional factors. If you run a very small company, deal primarily with a few local customers or don't have the capacity to expand, an AI system might not be the right choice.
AI algorithms change the way sales professionals interact with the sales funnel. An algorithm has the potential to disrupt the standard workflow — it might take over the front end by analyzing and qualifying leads, requiring sales staff to come in near the end of the process. For salespeople who are accustomed to nurturing leads and developing customer relationships, the shift to AI can be jarring and scary. A smooth transition requires employee buy-in. Without it, the resistance and frustration can lead to far-reaching problems with culture and productivity.
AI algorithms have the potential to transform the sales cycle, but they're not right for every business. Before you invest, it's important to analyze the benefits to determine whether an AI system is right for your business now, or whether you should wait.
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