If you work in a sales organization, you know the importance of using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage relationships and close deals. In fact, the CRM market grew to a $48 billion industry in 2018, and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way sales teams do business and made them consider new strategies for reaching customers and managing sales relationships.
While there is no shortage of robust CRMs designed for businesses of all sizes and industries, the most forward-thinking CRM companies are integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their software by using machine learning that sifts through massive amounts of data of data to help you qualify leads, automate tedious processes, and give you the most comprehensive picture of each prospect.
Here are seven ways AI is impacting CRM technology now—and will continue to do so in the future:
1. Increased Customer Insights
In order to be deemed trustworthy by customers, you have to understand them. And, when you have a large volume of leads in your CRM pipeline, it’s hard to research and understand each one individually.
That’s likely why only 3% of people trust salespeople. That being said, 79% of buyers say being able to trust a sales rep is critical. However, many CRMs have started using AI to uncover valuable information about prospective customers by using machine learning to analyze large amounts of data.
Real-life example: Freshworks CRM created an AI assistant named Freddy to unlock insights about each prospect. It learns from the data in your CRM to create predictions, insights, and recommendations to help you make decisions on how you communicate with each lead.
It also recognizes patterns that help you engage customers and forecast revenue backed by data. Furthermore, Freddy offers automated chat conversations on your website to help users find the right answers to their questions without taking up valuable time from your sales and support team.
2. Faster Data Compilation & Organization
As any seasoned sales manager can tell you, inputting manual information into a CRM takes a lot of time and is a huge barrier to CRM adoption. In 2017, a study by HubSpot revealed that salespeople spent a whopping 79% of their time doing tasks that could potentially be automated. However, AI can use powerful technology to automate manual tasks so salespeople can get back to doing what they do best—selling.
Real-life example: With AI, more time can be spent nurturing relationships and closing deals. For example, Salesforce has a feature called “Einstein Activity Capture” that records emails and events with each prospect, automatically organizes them into a timeline, and puts them on your calendar. In fact, a company documented that their salespeople saved at least one hour per day of manual data entry time and improved close rates by 30% in one case study.
3. Higher-quality Sales Conversations
Nearly all salespeople have experienced going through sales training over the phone, but now AI can deliver coaching and insights by eavesdropping on your sales conversations. This type of technology can do things like show how you can be more empathic, recognize social cues, know when you should slow down the rate of your speech, or when you should give the prospect room to talk.
In fact, companies that use this type of technology have experienced a Transactional NPS score increase of 28%. The survey measures the likelihood a customer will recommend your product or services, which ultimately improves your bottom line.
Real-life example: Cogito has created a product that integrates with CRMs, examining your speaking behaviors and helping you speak to prospects and customers with more empathy and confidence using live call monitoring. Their technology is based on millions of analyzed phone conversations and natural language processing to help reps improve sales conversations and guide managers on how to provide effective coaching.
4. Automated Transcription & Keyword Recognition
Just like AI can analyze phone calls to improve emotional intelligence, it can also transcribe and analyze meetings by recording them and providing valuable insights on the back-end. AI technology can capture time-stamped notes, highlight specific references that prospects make, and churn out data about remarks to next steps, budget, and decision-makers.
As a salesperson, one of the biggest challenges I faced was trying to take notes and actively listen to the prospective customer at the same time. Furthermore, I’d try to remember as much as I could about the conversation and quickly put my notes into my CRM before I forgot and before my next demo, which was often only minutes away.
Real-life example: AI-fueled software such as Chorus.ai helps sales teams by recording and analyzing calls and integrating it with your current software so you don’t have to remember every detail—the power of AI does it for you. You can uncover things like competitors mentioned, key topics, features requests, talk-to-listen ratio, and filler words used—even from multiple speakers.
5. Enhanced Lead Scoring
All sales management leaders know it can be tricky to create an accurate lead scoring model. Plus, sales teams are a whopping 33% more likely to prioritize leads based on accurate data than intuition.
Other important data-related factors include things like job title, company size, and geography. AI can help by using your existing CRM data, behavioral insights, demographic data, marketing indicators, and buying decisions from your past closed deals to develop real-time scoring rates for your current leads. This helps your team hone in on which “hot” deals to focus on closing.
However, only 46% of salespeople have access to information about customers’ propensity to make buying decisions based on accurate data. But, AI can make it more accessible. For instance, one company used this type of AI technology to save time in their sales planning process. By integrating this technology with their CRM and using data-driven sales insights, they cut their planning time from three months to six weeks.
Real-life example: The software this company, Vodafone, used is called Anaplan. Their AI-powered software integrates with your CRM to help your team focus on which opportunities are likely to close, create realistic sales forecasts, and optimize your sales territories and quotas.
6. Improved Customer Service
Nearly everyone has experienced the frustration of talking to a bot and not getting the answer they need, regardless of your industry. However, many CRMs are using ever-improving AI technology to create bots that actually provide timely, accurate answers that don’t require manually mining through data—saving valuable time.
Real-life example: Zoho has developed an AI feature called Zia. For instance, sales managers can ask Zia a question like, “Show me a list of deals closing this month.” Zia will compile data from your CRM and instantly provide an automated list of deals. You can also use Zia to quickly find information from the other features of its CRM, such as where your leads are coming from, and get an instant response, even generating an easy-to-read, visual graph.
7. More Consistent Follow-up
Most salespeople rely heavily on email templates and canned responses to reply to a large volume of similar emails and messages. However, now an AI-powered assistant can take over some of that for you. This unique technology employs a human-esque persona to follow up with prospects and even cross-sell similar products while integrating with your CRM to keep track of all your sales conversations in one place.
Sales organizations are rapidly implementing this type of technology to engage leads, reduce churn rates, and improve close rates. For example, CenturyLink reported they experienced a 20-fold return on investment (ROI) when integrating virtual assistant AI technology into their sales process.
Real-life example: Conversica created a product that allows sales teams to use AI that can respond to qualified leads with personalized messages via email and text messages—even in multiple languages. It gathers updated information such as phone numbers and alerts reps to follow up, and automatically updates the information in your CRM. Finally, it can also do things like reach out to leads before events such as webinars, engage inactive prospects and former customers, and follow up with participants after events like trade shows and conferences.
While some salespeople might worry that AI is going to take over their jobs, that’s simply not the case. AI is tremendously helpful in automating processes and uncovering insights, but it can’t replace human relationships. CRM intelligence is making strides as sales teams adopt it as part of their sales process to save time and improve data accuracy, allowing them to spend more time cultivating personal relationships with customers and, in turn, ultimately fostering small business growth.