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Sales was ripe for disruption and then along came AI

Buyers are typically two-thirds of the way through a purchase journey before even engaging a seller. That’s because they’re doing a lot of research upfront so they already know a lot about your company, your products, the features, your competitors, even the price. With such little reliance on sellers, imagine bringing the capabilities of AI to the buyer’s aid. What then for the role of sellers?

I just watched the video below by Head of Enterprise Sales for LinkedIn in the UK and Ireland, Steven Kang, talk about Deep Sales. This is where the startling fact in my first paragraph above comes from. The AI bit I added because I am writing a lot on AI at work at the moment (including working on a next trend report on the subject). I have been writing about sales productivity too.

It’s no secret that Microsoft (disclosure) is bringing AI to just about everything but Sales is a priority: Microsoft boosts Viva Sales with new GPT seller experience – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog. And the standard bearer of sales tech are too, amongst many others: Salesforce Announces Einstein GPT, the World’s First Generative AI for CRM – Salesforce News

Why that is should not be difficult to understand. In hard times such as we are going through, sales and revenue is everything. Even in the good times it’s top of mind for CEO and CRO’s everywhere.

Sellers under pressure

Some of the quotes and stats from the video point to the pressure sellers are under from buyers and/or macro trends. Some choice ones below:

Over the last couple years, sixty percent of buyers say they work remotely at least half the time and more want to. There’s a lot more sales technology in the market and buyers have access to more information putting them in more control of the buying process and it’s this combination of information, technology and macro trends that’s changing the landscape such that revenue leaders are having a hard time adapting.

We saw that two-thirds of organizations reported missing sales targets in July 2022.

The sales process is getting more complex. Our research shows that the average buying committee is now 13 people. It wasn’t that long ago that this number was 6.8, from research that we did. Uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment is only exacerbating this as there’s more scrutiny by more people.

Sellers only have five percent of a buyer’s total purchase time.

Since the pandemic, sales emails have increased by 79 percent and not surprisingly response rates have dropped by 30 percent so no wonder there’s a divide between buyers and sellers with buyers putting in a lot of the legwork sellers are increasingly out of touch with what buyers want or need.

95 percent of buyers are not ready to buy today so it’s important to know what the right time is and cut through the noise and maximize your own efficiency.

AI to the rescue?

I have this heading as a question because of one other important stat from the video:

Gartner now reports that the average sales Tech stack consists of 13 virtual selling technologies. Seventy percent of sellers say they use sales tech daily or weekly but the sales Tech that was intended to help is actually exacerbating the problem.

AI is just more tech but it is fundamentally different. And when you look at how Microsoft is positioning Viva Sales below and how LinkedIn are targeting deep sales, I think it is different. Certainly I see AI as a CoPilot, to coin a phrase Microsoft has ingenuously co-opted for most of its new AI tech.

Cut the Forms

23% of business owners said manual data entry was their biggest challenge with CRM followed by 17% lack of data integration.

Viva Sales automatically collects data from all Microsoft 365 apps across every customer touchpoint, so sellers don’t have to enter data manually.

Skip the data entry with Viva Sales.

Connect the data

74% of sellers described sales intelligence tools as critical or extremely critical in closing deals.

Viva Sales gives you Conversation Intelligence in Teams calls, automatically including an executive summary, call transcript, and helpful KPIs like average talking speed and talk-to-listen ratio.

Get actionable insights in real time with Viva Sales.

Crush the sale

40% higher productivity reported at companies in the top quartile for managing time, talent and energy.

Viva Sales delivers AI-driven recommendations that create a better seller experience and optimize follow through for more sales.

Know the next best action with Viva Sales.

Sources of data:

Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change,” CSO Insights. 2019.
The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021,” LinkedIn. 2021.
State of Inbound Report,” HubSpot. 2017.
The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020,” LinkedIn. 2020.
The Pandemic Is Widening a Corporate Productivity Gap,” Harvard Business Review. 2020.

And if you want to find out the lates on Viva Sales, check out this post: What’s New in Viva Sales – March 2023 – Microsoft Community Hub

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