Sales development is a vital function of sales organization, fueling the pipeline with qualified leads. Lately however, it has been driving sales activities that crossover to the marketing function. Sales development reps are sending direct mail, gifts, testing out results and getting creative about reaching out to leads. We talked about this on the Playmakers podcast with expert sales trainer John Barrows.
John Barrows has years of experience in the sales industry and now owns his company, JBarrows Sales Training. He works with companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Box, Dropbox and Okta, training them on the sales process, from prospecting to closing.
Artificial Intelligence, Still New to Sales
As far as use of Artificial Intelligence in sales development, John thinks we are still a long way from it being common practice. Most sales reps don’t understand predictive analytics, AI or any of the terms used for machine learning.
“The biggest thing about AI is it’s not automation. It’s really using a machine to gather insights from data points and learn and come up with kind of predictive analytics. It shows what you should be doing,” says John.
When sales reps can receive recommendations from AI-powered systems on lead scoring, they will be able to improve their results and focus on the right deals and opportunities.
“The fear I have of AI is really taking over a lot of the jobs and responsibilities of sales reps. But the more I learn about it, the more I understand the best sales reps are going to be able to use AI to really leverage the human component of what makes sales so special,” told us John, on the podcast.
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to make sales reps better and close bigger deals, faster.
The Death of The Average Sales Rep
John says he starts all of this presentations with the title “’Death of the Average Sales Rep”. This is because sales reps who are helped by Artificial Intelligence are in fact accomplishing so much more than a regular sales rep.
“There’s an AI-er out there right now that does, writes emails, like super high customized emails, in less than a minute, and you’ve got sales reps sitting there cranking out template emails. To me, those are the ones that are going to get replaced, the ones that are just kind of going through the motions, those are the ones that are going to get replaced through technology, and whether that’s AI or whatever, and those are the ones I’m really worried about,” said John.
“The ones that are paying attention to AI and are leveraging the insights that AI gathers from the data, those are the ones that are really going to excel,” he added.
Artificial Intelligence in the SMB
One issue with Artificial Intelligence is that it requires a massive amount of data in order to be effective and produce accurate predictions, adds John. This means that only large businesses that have access to this data are able to get meaningful insights out of AI-powered systems.
“The challenge I have right now for small businesses is – if you’re a small business (…), there’s only so much data for an AI thing to look at to help you make better decisions. Really AI is only truly going to have significant impacts on stuff where there’s a data set and you can turn this thing on and say, ‘Go find me something that I can’t figure out,’ said John.
John adds he’s hoping that crowdsourcing data might prove an equalizer to make sure that all businesses benefit from the powers of AI in the sales departments.
“My hope is that there is kind of the crowdsourcing component to AI that allows small businesses to say, ‘Hey, here’s my data set. Go find me another data set that’s very similar to this, and then multiply it by a billion and see if you can figure out some nuances here that I can leverage,’” adds John.
Technology Helps – If You Use It Correctly
Technology can only help in the sales industry as long as sales reps are using it correctly, shows John. And more often than not, sales reps are just using it as sales automation.
“Sales reps are just using them to automate the function without putting any thought into it. If you’re going to come up with a cadence or a contact strategy (…) and then you’re just going to send them out… I don’t see the difference between that and a marketing automation engine like a Marketo, Alicor, Pardot, pick one of those. As a marketer, I’m actually going to analyze the results. I’m going to make the adjustments, which sales reps almost never will,” shows John.
The Missing Link Between Sales and Marketing
This is the missing link between sales and marketing, adds John. As long as sales reps don’t test out their content and figure out how to improve their results, they can’t possibly win. And sometimes, communication between the two departments is what needs to happen in order to improve overall company results.
“Right now, marketing comes up with content, throws it over the fence. Sales then does or doesn’t use it and gives no feedback loop. If marketing actually worked with to come up with sales ready messaging, gave it to sales reps in a format that connected maybe personas and triggers, and allowed sales reps to take that messaging, put it into a contact strategy, and then leverage a sales efficiency tool, and then provide feedback! Now, all of a sudden, we got this engine that can kick into gear, and everybody’s getting value out of it,” adds John.
How to Get Marketing and Sales to Talk to Each Other
The divide between sales and marketing has been going on for a long time, and it’s real. Everyone is looking for a silver bullet where sales is concerned, adds John – and unfortunately, that just doesn’t exist. Tools are only going to be efficient if Marketing and Sales departments work together for the good of your business.
“Everybody’s looking for all these solutions, and my solution, I’m going to tell you right now, you don’t need another piece of technology, you don’t need another tool, you just need the people internally within your organization to start talking to each other,” concludes John.
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