How machine learning is changing digital marketing [Q&A]

Marketing compass

Increasingly customers expect personalized experiences that are relevant to their unique situations and needs. However, with the increased reliance on technology needed to provide this, the human angle can go by the board.

We spoke to Jon Perera, CMO at sales and marketing software specialist Highspot to learn more about how people, processes and technology can be aligned to offer optimum customer experience.


BN: Why is the sales process particularly suited to automation?

JP: Automation can be useful when applied correctly, but when it comes to the sales process, it's not automation but artificial intelligence that is the key. The sales conversation today has drastically changed -- mass outreach or 'spray and pray' tactics are no longer effective. Customers across industries and geographies now expect a personalized experience.

To create compelling customer experiences, sellers need to utilize a combination of AI, human intelligence, and empathy. For example, sales engagement tools that use automation to streamline workflows and eliminate routine administrative tasks can save salespeople valuable time better spent with the customer. But this alone is not enough to deliver the authentic experience buyers crave. Sales teams need to be both efficient and effective.

Selling today is an art and a science, especially in remote work environments. Genuine human connection, complemented by AI, makes it possible for salespeople to have more effective conversations that lead to lasting relationships and revenue growth.

BN: What are the key elements that need to be put in place to ensure success?

JP: Customer experience should be top-of-mind for sales reps. To ensure they deliver on mounting, and frequently changing, buyer demands and provide maximum value, salespeople need to be equipped with content and guidance on what to know, say, show, and do in every buyer conversation.

Intelligent content management, clear sales guidance and better buyer engagement data are foundational to success. Another key element not to be forgotten is collaboration. Improving collaboration across your go-to-market teams is essential to customer acquisition and retention. Teams must be working in true partnership to sustain business growth.

BN: What particular advantages does artificial intelligence offer to sales teams?

JP: Sales leaders expect AI adoption to grow faster than any other technology, and high-performing teams are 4.9x more likely to be using AI than under performing ones, according to Salesforce's State of Sales report.

There are dozens of use cases for AI in sales. Salesforce's Einstein prioritizes leads. Drift's conversational AI fills the pipeline. Highspot's patented machine-learning surfaces effective content for every sales opportunity. From providing intelligent recommendations to enhancing productivity, AI improves sales teams’ efficiency and effectiveness by eliminating the guesswork and providing sellers with the real-time insights and resources they need at the moment of action.

BN: How does this link to/differ from CRM?

JP: As a system of record that allows businesses to manage the relationship with the customer, CRM is foundational to any business. But even with a CRM in place, companies still need to bridge the gap between their system of record and real-world engagement. This is where sales enablement comes into play as it provides the content, guidance, training and analytics that sales teams need to have a clear path to better customer conversations.

CRM applications and sales enablement technology are an essential part of every business’ sales technology stack and linking them benefits businesses and buyers alike. For instance, sellers can use AI-driven content recommendations from the sales enablement platform that relate to specific account attributes in CRM, such as the prospect's industry, the stage of the deal, or the competitors involved. By automatically surfacing intelligent content recommendations and just-in-time training, sellers can make the most of resources that proved effective and ensure strong ROI on marketing investments.

BN: How can companies take advantage of artificial intelligence while retaining the human touch?

JP: Artificial intelligence can't replace humans -- rather, it should be used to improve the sales experience for both buyers and revenue teams. As digital selling and virtual enablement look to be the norm for a long time to come, people are craving some form of genuine person-to-person interaction more than ever. In fact, PwC research found that 59 percent of global consumers surveyed felt companies had lost touch with the human element of customer experience, and 75 percent of the customers surveyed preferred to interact with a human versus an automated machine.

The true power of AI is realized when applied with human empathy. For example, within a sales enablement platform, machine learning analyses how effective content is in closing revenue to surface intelligent content recommendations for a specific deal. From the list of available assets, a seller chooses the one best suited to her buyer's unique challenges, thereby tailoring their outreach to the buyer’s needs. This situation demonstrates how AI helps salespeople be more efficient and effective -- and how the personalized, authentic experience is ultimately delivered through human intelligence. The end result of using AI to augment human capabilities is more fulfilled buyers, more successful salespeople, and a better customer-company relationship.

Image Credit: donskarpo / Shutterstock

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