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Sales Leadership
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In this episode of the CPSA SalesProTips show, we will investigate the impact AI and machine learning is having on sales today, and what the sales landscape will look like in the next 18-24 months. Our guest on this episode of the Sales Tips For The Pros podcast is Shane Gibson, speaker, sales trainer, influencer, and author on social media marketing, social selling and sales performance.  

Listen to this episode of the CPSA's SalesProTips to discover:

* How is big data taking the guesswork out of lead prioritization?

* How is the incorporation of AI and machine learning into sales methods changing the role of sales managers?

* How is AI helping to predict buying patterns and cycles of retention?

* What will the imminent dominance of AI mean for sales jobs?

Want to hear more? Check out these bonus soundbites:

* In a world dominated by selling using AI, who should lead? Marketing or Sales leaders?

* Can Machine learning technology help to predict and forecast demand, thereby informing supply decisions to prepare for any given increases and wanes?

* How can AI reduce the more mundane sales tasks and free up time for relationship-building?

Need to hear even more? Check out the new CPSA ebook, co-authored with Shane Gibson on AI and Sales.

Read the edited transcription:

Kristen Harcourt: In this episode of the CPSA's Sale Tips for the Pros podcast, we consider how AI is changing marketing and sales. Our guest today is Shane Gibson. Shane is an international speaker, sales trainer, and author on social media marketing, social selling, and sales performance. He has spoken to over 100,000 people on stages in North America, Southern Africa, India, Dubai, Malaysia, and South America. Shane Gibson is number five on the list of the top 30 social salespeople in the world. Shane is also Canada's only guerrilla marketing master trainer. Shane Gibson, welcome to the show.

Shane Gibson: Hey, thanks for having me.

Kristen Harcourt: Today, we're going to be chatting about the hugely interesting topic of AI and its impact on the world of sales, so let's jump straight in. How is big data taking the guesswork out of lead prioritization?

Shane Gibson: AI is something you can use to leverage big data or get results from it. But I mean, just the concept of big data and how it can prioritize leads is pretty amazing. I mean, we can look at...somebody visits a credit reporting website, and they're anonymously cookied along with a million other people that they have a certain credit rating. And then, that person does a search for BMWs in the Toronto area, and then, they hit a major website. And all that data's pulled together, and then, when they land on the website, a car dealer, after clicking on a double click ad...that car dealer, if they bought the right ad campaign will know that hey, the people who've clicked on this ad that have hit these landing page are actually...have a certain credit rating and have already looked for BMWs in the last week. And you can literally drill down with big data now and drive enterprise-level ad campaigns at that level.

From an AI perspective, I think from this perspective, how this translates into potential leads is once that person's entered our database, AI can be able to watch their behaviors from what emails have come into what pages they've revisited on our website to a whole bunch of other behaviors and begin to trigger these opportunities and pass them on to salespeople through our CRM. And I'm seeing this with some of my clients, who are implementing this. They're using big data along with an AI type agent and a tool like Salesforce to begin to prioritize who their salespeople are calling based upon their behaviors and interactions, both on-site and off-site. And so it's a pretty powerful thing. It can take in and look at a whole bunch of algorithms and begin to make suggestions and move things forward even before kind of the salesperson has opened up their most wanted list and decided who they're going to call that day. So this is really changing how we interact with opportunities and how we prioritize who we call, for instance, or even who we're marketing to on the internet.

Kristen Harcourt: How is the incorporation of AI and machine learning into sales methods changing the role of sales managers? Do today's best sales leaders need to be marketing savvy, too?

Shane Gibson: Oh, I think that if we really look at automation, machine learning, AI, it impacts all parts of our business. So to say that they need to be marketing savvy...I think they need to be tech savvy. But you look a sales manager or a sales leader, and the sales leader of tomorrow is going to have to figure out...and tomorrow means tomorrow, not like 20 years from now, but like tomorrow, is they're going to have to figure out or become masters at putting together a technology sales stack. They need to be technology literate enough to understand what lead generation tools are they using that are enabled by AI.

How is that playing into their Salesforce platform? How is that now rolling into their lead nurturing process? How does that integrate with an AI-driven chatbot, which qualifies leads to hit the website? And then, where does this...How does this process help salespeople do more of what they're good at, which is talk to customers and engage customers and build rapport and assess needs and build relationships? And so if I look at that perspective, in the past, as a sales manager, I just needed to know how to use my CRM, and I needed to give my guys a call sheet and tell them who the target market is. But now, I need to at least be able to understand...maybe not implement, because you get a tech team to do that. How do I build a really powerful sales technology stack that's going to help my team be more efficient, to go further with less people, and to help my people do less data entry, less prospecting where they're just calling a thousand prospects, but instead, talking to the right people and then driving follow up and relationship development without taking the personalization of it?

And so that's kind of where we're going from a sales leadership perspective. And I know I deal with a lot of…like, a VP of sales is just scratching their head. If you look at these softwares of service, or the SaaS, or cloud-based sales applications and tools out there for all aspects of selling, it's gone from a few dozen to hundreds of venture capital funded tools. And so to be able to discern, "Hey, what do I really want to get done with my sales process, and what tools are available to automate all the left brain or mundane or repetitive tasks so that I can help my salespeople do what they're better at? And also, how do I use AI to, in an automated fashion, do things like research, engage customers, follow up, qualify prospects on the web?” So that's a really different world than what sales leadership was a few years ago. And so it's not just about sales and marketing alignment or being a sales leader and understanding marketing. It's really about technology and understanding how to equip and enable our sales team with these tools.

Kristen Harcourt: How is AI helping to predict buying patterns and cycles of retention? For example, when someone is likely to renew or upgrade.

Shane Gibson: Oh boy, I think that goes back, let's use an example of combining AI and the internet of things. So for instance, I could be a capital equipment manufacturer that makes machines that manufacture sausage and processes meats and packages them and the whole nine yards. And so these machines will have up to 100 different parts or data points on these machines that are fed back to the vendor to make sure that the machine's working. But what it also will do is it'll tell me that XYZ manufacturer is running this machine not 11 hours a day, but 12 hours a day. In addition to this, our sales team have visited them and actually quoted them on these three different products, so they're obviously been shopping around and looking at expanding. And the biggest opportunity is in this machine that they're running double duty, that they've got a capacity issue. And so all of a sudden, it triggers this prospect for me and says, "This person's ready to buy because they're overusing our machinery. In addition to that, they're using more of this particular item than the others." And so I can now pick up the phone and have a really...or drop an email and have a really intelligent phone call with this particular client.

Or AI can trigger an email that goes out that's already been pre-written that actually says, "Hey, Fred, I've noticed that your XYZ machine has been running this much over capacity for the last three weeks in a row. Based upon that, it's likely that you're experiencing more wear and tear and less productivity and more energy use than you should be. Do you have time to have a conversation about what we can do to help you with this?" And maybe then he responds. And then another AI bot which actually books meetings, which there's a whole bunch out there, comes in, and he says, "Hey, let me CC Sarah, and she'll set up the time." And Sarah's just a bot, but she comes in and says, "Hey, Fred, what times work for you, Wednesday or Thursday next week?" And Fred says Thursday, and then that bot actually books the appointment and sends them both the calendar invite. And the salesperson...this is the first time they've seen it, is they've got an appointment booked with the client. And they've seen that AI has taken care of this whole process.

And so that's the kind of stuff that's not going to happen in the future. This type of stuff is already being done right now in sales processes. So if you think about all of that, that saves the sales leader a whole bunch of time and the salesperson a whole bunch of time. It's also a little scary as a salesperson. If you spend most of your day sending out form emails, all of a sudden, you've been replaced with AI connected with the internet of things. And that's a whole bunch of business intelligence and not a lot of hours required.

Kristen Harcourt: What will the imminent dominance of AI mean for sales jobs? How will new salespeople fit in when the traditional outbound sales methods are dead?

Shane Gibson: I think it goes back to what I said about the VP of sales. Yeah, especially in a lot of...if you're working for a startup, you don't have a VP of sales. There's probably three salespeople and an owner, and so you've got to be, as a new junior I would want to have a competitive advantage is I would want to understand all the sales technology stack available to me or my organization better than anybody so that I can...I'm almost a pseudo-programmer. I can understand that hey, I'm going to set this process up. I'm going to connect it with this. I'm going to have these emails set up. I'm going to set up the AI so that it looks for these following things. I'm going to program my chatbot to do this, and/or I'm at least going to set it up and put the process together and do something to do it. But I the future, I believe that all sales professionals will need to have a certain level of understanding of how all these pieces of the stack go together and how to use them. So it's like today, when you go to a job interview as a salesperson and someone says, "Do you use" And you say, "Well, I've never used it," you're probably shutting the door on 30% of the sales career opportunities. But I think as we've moved forward, the same thing is going to be said of artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and a lot of these Salesforce automation tools. So that's the first one.

The second one is make yourself irreplaceable. So if right now, you're cutting and pasting templates and you're following a script and it is...what you're doing, largely, is analytical or repetitive in nature and not creative, you can be replaced by artificial intelligence. But as a sales professional, if what you're doing largely is communicating, is driven by emotional intelligence, is driven by relationship building, is driven by negotiation skills, is driven by leadership skills, those things make you indispensable. So if you're a great leader or great communicator, a great connector, a great relationship-builder, and you're really good at assessing client needs and establishing rapport, then tools like AI will actually enable you to do more of what you do better.

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