In 2018, Forrester Research predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) would replace millions of U.S. sales jobs by 2020. In those days, brands looked forward to a machine-dominated landscape, but now that we’ve reached the new decade, the truth has proven itself too redeeming for that. Humans are still the business world’s most important assets, particularly when they have AI tools on their side. Machine learning has achieved a powerful collaboration between sales teams and AI. Business leaders think of it as a ladder for, rather than a replacement of, human employees, and it’s carrying sales teams to heights they could never reach before.
Forrester expected to see order processors, direct sellers, and high-level consultants kicked off employment lists in favor of automated workers. The enterprise lacked the ambition to see beyond the scope of 2018’s typical sales department. The business world now knows that when you use AI to give sales teams the time to focus on their grandest ambitions, incredible things happen.
The Day-to-Day Routines of Today’s Sales Machines
Machines are turning sales departments into turbo-charged versions of their former selves, giving sales teams the time to achieve a more personalized, branded campaign. Artificial intelligence in sales generates better results, stronger connections, and more precise analytics. Your sales reps can focus on building relationships and closing deals while software takes care of the rest. AI can:
Schedule meetings by scanning emails for buyer-readiness—a task that’s expected to free up a stunning 33% of sales rep’s days.
Calculate travel times for logistics and warehousing teams.
Use natural language generation to build personalized emails.
Use chatbots to qualify leads and offer after-sales service before assigning them to the appropriate human support teams.
Sort through leads and identify the strongest potential buyers—a job that usually takes up 50% of sales time.
Predict buyer-readiness so that employees can approach each client according to their unique signals.
Predicting Rising Sales
Amazon is world-famous for its sales efficiency, and it has AI to thank for many of its results. It uses artificial intelligence in sales to customize client recommendations—a task it handles so well it’s driven a 29% increase in its total sales. It juggles billions of data points to choose which products to stock, then uses algorithms to convert email leads to buyers. But it does more than just sell.
Machine learning technology gives Amazon fulfillment teams the power to predict coming buying trends. This way, the stock is always adjusted before buying needs spike, eliminating sales losses while preparing logistics teams for rising needs. This has important implications for the franchising industry, where unexpected purchasing booms can affect millions of buyers across thousands of outlets. Franchisors are forewarned of impending changes, so they can ship higher stock quantities to franchisees in advance.
The Digital Assistant Trend
AI assistants have come to represent the world’s biggest digital brands. Apple has Siri, and Microsoft has Cortana. Even Amazon has its own version, but artificial intelligence in sales has far more scope in lead qualification. Without AI, sellers spend only 35% of their time selling. Accepting that much time wastage is giving away your greatest superpower: a superlative, yet consistent, sales experience.
Franchisors have a challenging task ahead of them. They must deliver the repeatable experience of their trademark across thousands of outlets. A powerful brand differentiates itself through a unique value proposition, and it’s sales teams who are at the frontlines, day after day, trying to deliver exactly that. One under-performing franchise can cause irreparable harm for the entire brand, so artificial intelligence in sales is direly needed. Fortunately, there’s now a Siri for every sales team. Chatbots have become a core way to deliver human-like service while simultaneously collecting rich customer insights.
This technology doesn’t merely create natural language but analyzes it for buyer readiness as well. Conversational bots can automate call centers, handling complex human interactions so well they’re kicking traditional conversational services to the curb. Artificial intelligence in sales can process payments, build marketing content, and respond to service calls before sorting contact requests to the right sellers.
Franchisee Training and Prospect Qualification
In a social media age, one bad franchisee can cause irreparable damage to your brand, so a tighter prospect qualification process is irreplaceable. AI can recruit the right people by identifying biases and weaknesses in their language. It can also handle mundane tasks like database tracking, of course, but it’s particularly suited to finding the best candidates using predictive analytics.
While the post-recession franchising boom is still going strong, leads are slowly declining. To ensure a profitable future, brands must institute a stronger lead-qualification process, but the discipline has, in the past, been notoriously dominated by administrative grunt work. Artificial intelligence in sales allows franchisors to optimize their operations and tack together more efficient qualification strategies, partially built from language assessment tools. Whether you rely on webinars, trial products, subscriptions, or content-driven sales, AI can transform unknown potential customers into sales-qualified opportunities with ease.
The Machine-Based Marketing Team
Product trials, downloads, and the like can be automatically generated to carry potential buyers closer to the buying decision. This can accelerate the sales process and deliver high quality leads to human teams across a more diverse sales funnel. This way, franchisors can create a rules-based system for converting leads into sales opportunities. Bot-driven engagement keeps interested but unconverted leads interested while ascertaining conversational intent. Your scoring results will become more precise, and your data will multiply exponentially. The analytics your machine-based tools generate can inform every other part of your business, from your marketing department to your logistics. Surges in demand never need to catch you unawares again.
Franchise failure rates are generally lower than those of traditional businesses, partly because of the incredible scope each franchisor must manage. Few businesses understand the challenge better than Coca Cola, but the brand titan is relying on AI to improve its stock management. Its image-based technology monitors store shelves before analyzing them and returning actionable stock control insights. The system has delivered a 1.3% increase in market share to Coca-Cola Amatil – one of the 5 major Coca Cola bottlers in the world – within only five months. The same technology can feed insights into ROI calculations, delivering metrics that franchisors can use to identify weak links in the franchise chain.
Indirect Sales Elements
Site selection is one of the most important sales tools franchisors have in their arsenal today, and AI has brought a seismic shift to the industry. Machines can forecast demographic trends and transform geographical data into insights so well that 66% of businesses now use them to scout locations. AI can also be used to predict traffic flow, parking availability, competitors, and communities’ economic power.
Meeting Impossible Expectations
Imagine having the power to contact 100% of your leads. Imagine being able to automate unique, branded content for every potential buyer in your arsenal. Imagine being able to respond to every social media mention and direct message the instant one of your potential buyers connects. This vibrant picture is not of some futuristic era. It’s already happening for businesses all over the world.