Artificial intelligence challenges all trades. Even that of the commercial? Yes and no. No, because the fundamentals of sales and trade are alive and well. And yes, because we will have to adapt to take advantage of the AI … and preferably, better than its competitors.
According to an analysis by the Institute For The Future, published in 2017, 85% of jobs in 2030 do not yet exist, because robotics and artificial intelligence will reshape the world of work. “It is becoming more and more certain that the majority of trades and organizations will be very largely transformed,” confirms Cédric Villani, mathematician and MP, who was responsible for a report on artificial intelligence.
What about commercial trades? First good news, they do not appear in the Top 5 endangered trades established by the Sapiens Institute, unlike employees in finance, accounting, cashiers and workers. Second good news: the positions of commercial executives, technico-commercial and commercial attachés are even part of the jobs “the most job-providers by 2022”, according to the ranking established by France Strategy.
A machine is not good for human relations, a commercial is!
The explanation is simple: the commercial function is, above all, a matter of human relationship, relevant argumentation, negotiation, conviction and, above all, empathy with the customer. Can a machine do it as well? Not sure, even if some parts of the sales cycle can be automated – it’s mostly the least rewarding and the most time-consuming of them (purchase order, access to customer histories …). The fundamentals of the sale will not change with artificial intelligence: the generalization of the robot-sellers is not for tomorrow. “Nearly three-quarters of French people are not ready for a robotic and cold relationship with brands,” says Arnaud Gallet, Director of Paris Retail Week, the major event on business trends.
The “increased commercial” has a secure future
Better still, artificial intelligence makes the commercial function even more strategic: the “increased commercial” has a secure future. Especially since artificial intelligence can optimize the performance of sales people. The companies that implemented it do not have to regret it – third good news. Because artificial intelligence boosts sales: according to a study by CapGemini, these increase on average by 10% when companies implement artificial intelligence, the number of leads increases by 22% and sales of new by 21% … With records: for example at Harley-Davidson, which has seen sales jump by 2,930% in three months by setting up an artificial intelligence platform! Or for Cosabella luxury lingerie distributor, with a 366% jump in three months …
AI to improve the end-to-end sales cycle
Every good salesman has four main needs:
- Always be able to better qualify the basics of prospects,
- Turn prospects into profitable customers,
- Increase the average basket of existing customers,
- Find new deposits of needs and uses to satisfy.
All these elements contribute to increase the turnover, to retain customers, to boost the margins … and the commissions of the salesmen! For the moment, we observe that most of these still work in a relatively traditional way (because it is still, in the end, relatively effective …). Admittedly, the CRM (customer relationship management) or marketing automation tools that are available to them help improve performance. But it would be enough to multiply the results, efficiency and performance of the sales cycle .
Does this mean that artificial intelligence will make the best salespeople even better? It is very likely! Because at each stage of the sales cycle, artificial intelligence will be a useful lever. Recall that artificial intelligence includes all the techniques that can create machines capable of simulating human intelligence. It implements, from multiple sources of data, structured or heterogeneous, several capabilities such as logic, problem solving, learning … As well as technologies that are today mature (Big Data, Business Intelligence, CRM, Data Visualization, predictive analysis …). Concretely, artificial intelligence brings four benefits to salespeople: precision in the selection of prospects, conversion of prospects into customers, retention of existing customers and innovation, addressing new needs.
Prospects: sort the wheat from the chaff with AI
There is nothing worse than detecting “false positive” customers, that is to say, who have all the characteristics of a future customer but who, in reality, will never buy anything. These parasitic fringes of consumers cause consumers to consume unnecessary energy. Artificial intelligence, based on the analysis of huge volumes of data (Big Data, Social Selling …), helps to sharpen the profiling of prospects and refine the commercial “storytelling”, to minimize the probability to be wrong and to waste valuable time, better used to focus on those who have potential …
Convert leads to customers: the AI to go faster than the competitors
What are the triggers of the act of purchase? To know it, one can of course rely on the experience or the intuition, but why not to analyze more in depth and, if necessary, to discover hidden motivations, specific behaviors or even more favorable moments to finalize the ‘Act of purchase ? Artificial intelligence and one of its components, predictive analytics, will be of great help for decision support or engaging with customers, including in digital form.
Retain existing customers: work less to sell more!
Once the prospect has become a customer, the hard part is done. Although … still need to retain and, even better, sell him more. In this field, artificial intelligence, which enriches customer knowledge, helps to better target them with a very fine granularity, to automate the relationship according to events or behaviors – and to make commercial proposals at the right time to the good person. It is the interest of the algorithms to make this process more easily accessible to the greatest number. And to make it reliable over time, thanks to the promises of machine learning (the machine learns as it runs an algorithm), the processing of natural language, the analysis of feelings on social networks ….
New uses: a new hunting ground for commercial
When a prospect becomes a customer and salespeople have managed to sell more to earn more, they can go even further. Why not detect unsuspected needs, singular uses, even new brand territories to explore? Here again, artificial intelligence will help, for example with the analysis of weak signals and emerging trends.
These profound transformations will require a real increase in the skills of salespeople. If only to discover the full potential of artificial intelligence, understand its mechanisms and be able to exploit all the features, including mobility. History will confirm it: artificial intelligence is and will be the friend of the commercial. You just have to know how to tame it!