Artificial intelligence has moved beyond the hype and is now seamlessly integrated into many aspects of business operations.
But what changes will it bring to the sales industry? Will it be the end of salespeople, or will it become the secret weapon to help sales reps work more efficiently?
HubSpot conducted research on the “State of AI,” with over 1,350+ specialists reporting on how AI affects their business. Furthermore, we’ve interviewed leading sales teams to collect 11 AI sales predictions that you should watch in 2023.
Let’s jump to the nitty-gritty.
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The State of AI Today
Though AI is still evolving and becoming more accurate over time, 57% of the top-performing sales teams have already reported a boost in their efficiency. Contrarily, only 20% of underperformers use AI to automate internal processes and improve customer experience.
But how does refusing AI impact business results?
HubSpot’s research says that sales professionals spend 2+ hours daily to automate repetitive tasks. 85% claim their prospecting efforts have become more effective with AI. 79% reported that AI helped them focus more on the selling part. Finally, 72% confessed they could build rapport faster after implementing AI.
Though these numbers are impressive, some barriers still keep salespeople from using AI to its fullest potential.
For example, some sales reps are skeptical about the accuracy of AI. In our survey, 49% of salespeople said they don’t wholly trust AI tools such as ChatGPT, which sometimes provides false and inaccurate information.
Another common challenge is the fear of losing jobs. The same survey shows that 19% of sales reps are sure AI will replace them in the next few years. Only 21% of the respondents are optimistic and confident that AI will not wipe out their roles.
So, what can salespeople expect and be prepared for in 2024?
11 AI Predictions in Sales for The Next Year
Forrester predicts that AI-powered platforms will grow to $37 million by 2025. This means AI will have a significant impact on the sales industry as well.
Here are the top 11 AI predictions in sales that you should keep your eyes on.
1. AI recognizes facial impressions and drives emotion-based decisions
The market size for facial recognition software was valued at USD 4.35 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 11.53 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 12.62% from 2022 to 2030.
Retailers have already been harnessing the power of face recognition with tools like FaceMe to detect age, gender, facial expression, and head orientation. Smart retail solutions also analyze clients’ moods, time spent nearby product category X, and emotions and build store traffic analytical reports.
Likewise, solutions like Uniphore Q empower online sales meetings by validating a buyer’s sentiment toward offers and value propositions in real time with a shocking 99.83% accuracy. Such tools also recognize tonal and verbal cues to provide instant guidance. All that happens simply during Zoom, Webex, or Microsoft Teams calls.
“I think the biggest AI trend we’ll see in the next couple of years is the ability for AI to make emotion-based decisions. While many think that it‘s a more ‘human’ thing to do, it really isn’t. Most of our interactions are often driven by emotions, yet we’re not always aware of that.
This means that when we‘re making decisions based on our emotions—whether it’s about how much money we want to spend or which product we want to buy—we're not making these decisions as efficiently or as rationally as we could be.
If we can use AI to help us make emotion-based decisions, we can be more rational and better at decision-making overall. And since sales are all about making quick smart decisions, this will have a huge impact on the industry.” — Gauri Manglik, CEO and co-founder of Instrumentl
2. AI-powered virtual sales assistants take low-level tasks away from salespeople.
In 2023, most companies will use chatbots to automate administrative tasks such as greeting potential customers, qualifying leads, booking meetings, and answering FAQs to allow sales reps to prioritize more meaningful activities requiring human expertise.
And chatbots' popularity is expected to rise quickly. Outgrow’s research claims that companies saw a 67% increase in sales after implementing chatbots.
“I believe there will be a big influence from three AI advancements in the sales sector: the expanded usage of chatbots and virtual assistants to improve customer assistance and free up sales representatives to work on more crucial projects.
Sales teams may customize their approach and messaging by using sophisticated predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms to determine client needs, behavior patterns, and preferences.” — David Louvet, founder and CEO, Innovet Pet Products
Does it mean chatbots are going to replace humans? No, as 60% of customers would still prefer to wait in a queue for a human agent to reply rather than receive an instant reply from a bot.
“Some will use AI to replace humans in sales. Or worse yet, to create an army of fake humans. Ultimately they’ll fail in all but the most simple and transactional circumstances. AI will drastically reduce time wasted on low-value tasks so people can spend more time authentically engaging with customers and prospects.” — Steve Watt, director of market insights at Seismic
3. AI augments lead scoring and qualification.
According to the LeanData report, the average MQL to SQL conversion rate is around 20%, and only 8% of those SQLs convert to deals. This suggests that sales and marketing teams are investing excessive time in irrelevant leads since a large portion of generated leads ends up at the top of the funnel.
In 2024, conversational AI will play a huge role in lead qualification. Analyzing customer transactions, sentiment, and interactions, AI can identify and pre-qualify potential leads before passing them on to the sales team.
Furthermore, AI-fueled sales tools can segment leads based on their engagement and how profitable they are likely to be.
4. AI makes customer data more vulnerable.
Sales teams collect and store a huge amount of customer data to train AI algorithms. The data can be taken from anywhere, such as online directories, databases, social media activities, and other public records.
There is always a risk that sensitive personal information can be collected, making customers vulnerable to security breaches and unauthorized access.
In a PwC survey of over 5,000 consumers and 2,000 executives, 87% of executives agreed that protecting customer data would be more profitable than monetizing it without customer consent. The same survey suggests that 27% of customers will stop doing any business with the company having a data breach incident in the past.
That being said, companies should take security measures and adopt regulations to use AI ethically and aligned with the law.
“As new regulations emerge to fend off potential cybersecurity threats and privacy breaches, we’ll all have to objectively analyze how we collect, store, and use consumer and customer data, as well as be willing to adjust our strategies for the well-being of all stakeholders.
That said, the future of AI in sales is moving toward predictive prospect analytics and hyper-personalization. But as AI learns and grows, we will see a dire need to train sales and marketing teams on how to train AI properly.
5. AI better understands user preferences and makes highly relevant product recommendations.
McKinsey’s research shows that 67% of customers expect some personalization from brands, and 78% are highly likely to repurchase because of personalization. So, the more user data you collect and process, the better you can personalize the pitches or send relevant product offerings to potential customers.
AI sales tools gather and analyze purchasing behavior, browsing behavior, and support interactions to detect patterns and trends. Next, AI tools prompt relevant product listings, like for ecommerce, or give recommendations for personalizing content at different sales pipeline stages to increase the chances of a sale.
For example, Amazon uses AI to analyze customer touchpoints to promote personalized product recommendations to customers and enhance their shopping experience.
6. AI delivers super-accurate sales forecasting.
53% of sales professionals that implemented AI use it for sales forecasting specifically, according to HubSpot research. With predictive analytics, sales teams can assess future revenue with 96% accuracy. This allows for swift changes in marketing and sales strategies if predicted figures are up to par.
Case in point: Silver Peak hired Aviso, an AI-guided selling platform, to predict quarterly business. The tool consistently provided revenue figures that were within a 3-4% range of the actual revenue received by the company.
Want to learn more about AI in sales? Watch how Steph Smith, the marketing director at Hubspot, discusses the future of AI and how it can fit into your workflow.
7. AI helps salespeople create hyper-personalized emails and experiences.
Advanced personalization of sales emails doubles your positive email reply rate. But drafting custom snippets is the most tedious task after prospecting. The remedy?
Consider AI-powered solutions like Zoominfo and Dealfront to uncover prospects that display buying signals. And Lavender, a sales writing assistant, generates personalized emails for any occasion based on buyer intent data.
Additionally, AI can adjust the subject lines, CTAs, and body texts based on industry best practices.
Altogether immensely cuts off time on prospecting and personalization while improving conversions down the sales funnel.
“Will AI help salespeople offload administrative tasks? Yes. Should salespeople use AI for email copy and outreach? Maybe, but that seems risky without additional human input. Instead, salespeople should look at AI as a way to supplement the most important part of their jobs: creating a delightful buying experience, fostering relationships, and acting as strategic consultants.
You wouldn’t trust a stranger off the street to sell for you — let alone one who’s not sentient. The good news is you can train off AI models of the content and conversations germane to your company, like Drift Conversational AI. AI models like that can supercharge the effectiveness of your sales team, and shorten the buying cycle, but we don’t see it replacing the charm and assistance of your best sellers.” — Justin Keller, vice president of revenue marketing at Drift
“In my area of expertise, social selling, AI can curate third-party content to help sellers show up in more valuable ways. It can also help sellers get comfortable bringing their own voices into the conversation. In regulated industries, AI can vastly oversee the social activity of sales leaders, and they can rest assured that their field force is empowered to share, comment, and engage in human ways.” — Steve Watt, director of market insights at Seismic
8. AI helps sales leaders detect performance issues and create solid training strategies.
81% of sales professionals agree that they get valuable coaching from their leaders. But in reality, sales leaders deprioritize coaching — only 26% of salespeople receive 1:1 coaching at least weekly.
AI can turn the tide and help ramp up sales reps faster.
As AI tracks individual KPIs such as the number of closed deals, the sales cycle length, the worst talk tracks, and customer feedback, sales executives can identify specific areas where sales reps are struggling.
Based on that information, sales leaders can develop personalized coaching strategies and address those issues, as well as improve overall team performance.
Moreover, with AI sales training software like Second Nature or Zenarate, sales reps can role-play and elevate their pitches. They don’t need the high involvement of sales leaders, though AI simulations lead to 28% higher sales win rates, as Second Nature claims.
“The accelerated adoption of AI-powered sales solutions will undoubtedly whittle down the human element required for sales funnel management. For example, Jenny, the AI from Second Nature takes the role of the AI assistant for a sales leader.
She can be assigned to coach any rep, on any scenario and any product. The sales leader can do the final review, but she is typically more patient, and more accommodating than most of the sales leaders I know.
AI can empower sales reps to quickly master selling new products within new markets and adapt instantly to changing environments. AI will also have a big impact on sales interactions. I think AI-driven software can also offer real-time analysis of facial micro-expressions to help direct salespeople away from potential landmines during calls.” — Ariel Hitron, co-founder and CEO at Second Nature
9. AI fosters better collaboration between marketing and sales
Sales and marketing misalignment is one of the top reasons for lost revenue, as studies have shown. This happens due to poor communication, lack of shared reports, or access to tools. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem in 2024, as AI-powered CRMs paired with sales enablement tools like Seismic can become your one data hub with powerful insights into “smarketing.”
With a two-way alignment, marketing teams can use AI to generate and score leads and then pass MQLs with all the information, such as customer interests and purchasing behavior, on to the sales department. This will allow sales reps to tailor follow-ups and provide a personalized approach to potential customers, thus increasing the likelihood of the sale.
On the other hand, sales teams can use revenue intelligence software like Gong to glean insights into the best sales talk tracks that result in higher checks or faster deals. Marketers then can use the insights to optimize messaging for better conversions and lower CPL (cost per lead).
“AI is not perfect, and it can‘t automate the whole pipeline, but its ease of use is unbelievable. You’re going to need to ensure your AI is capturing every interaction, whether it’s marketing intent data, a prospective buyer visiting your website, emails sent between seller and prospect, phone calls, online meetings, or anything else that generative AI can consume to provide you the best results.
The outcome is a sales team acting as one cohesive unit. Handing accounts off between SDRs, AEs, and CSMs made easier by an AI-generated 1,000-word brief that thoroughly explains your company's relationship with the customer, the critical stakeholders on each side, and the requirements needed for success.
10. AI aids in upselling and cross-selling activities by identifying existing customers who are ready to be sold to.
In our “2023 Sales Trends” report, we asked sales professionals how much revenue they get from upselling. Almost half of the companies make 11-30% of their revenue from upselling.
With that, account expansion should be a #1 priority to increase CLV (customer lifetime value) and customer retention. The trick is to detect customers ready for an upsell at scale.
Here, AI can locate patterns in user data of those with repeated purchases and compare it against the entire customer base. By doing so, AI can pinpoint individuals with a higher likelihood of responding positively to promotional offers. Ultimately, sales reps and customer success agents can act on the data to create highly personalized cross-selling or up-selling offers to gain more conversions.
Additionally, AI can use NPL (Natural Language Processing) or sentiment analysis to extract customer feedback and alert sales teams to follow up whenever a customer indicates an interest in a product.
11. AI predicts the ideal discount rate and optimizes the pricing.
Pricing is one of the leading factors that influence customer decision-making. You need to carefully research the market and monitor competitors, and customer needs to be able to create the right pricing strategy and remain profitable. Several factors go into the final price, and there is a lot of data that can be missed.
AI pricing platforms like Competera streamline these processes by analyzing market trends, competitor pricings, customer purchasing behavior, and historical sales data to predict the right discount rate or limited deals. This will allow businesses to adjust their pricing at scale and close more deals without sacrificing profitability.
Moreover, AI-powered algorithms can change the pricing in real time based on seasonality, demand, or supply.
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AI Trends in Sales to Watch in 2023
If you haven’t started integrating Sales AI in your daily operations, you’re falling behind your competitors. Take these AI trends into consideration and implement them to maximize your revenue.