• AI is taking on tasks many believed only humans could perform
  • As AI develops and matures, B2B buyers will start to transition more of their decisionmaking to AI tools
  • For B2B organization to stay relevant, they must properly implement AI tools to better support their buyers

Shane Mac, founder and CEO of Assist Inc, has created a chatbot that analyzes online communication, takes on your persona, and has discussions with would-be matches on dating sites. The success rate in connecting and setting up a first date using these bots has been remarkably high, which is a little scary.

Mac’s success can make us wonder, if I can offload areas of my life previously seen as off-limits to computers, what does that mean for the relationship between the buyer and seller? In truth, all this system is doing is streamlining and expediting the standard interactions people have before they really know enough about each other to meet in person. Turns out that most initial discussions are generic and only evolve into more complex relationships as time progresses. Tools like this outsource yet another step that we once believed only humans could do.

Now consider AI in sales applications, and put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Many buyers have evolved from going to sales reps for initial advice to doing their own research online. The next logical step in the evolution of buyer behavior is to outsource the research and let new technologies gather all requirements, scrape the internet for matches, and then present a succinct and accurate set of vendor recommendations. For smaller, less important purchases, this will be all the research needed to make the buying decision. For more complex sales, the buyer group can analyze the recommendations and decide which providers to engage before making a final decision. After the decision has been made, all interactions from the deal will be fed back into a system (e.g. a sales force automation system) to better inform the next buying decision. As this process repeats itself with more buyers, the system will become more insightful and make better recommendations until buyers have full confidence in the process and spend limited time scrutinizing it. Sales reps will then be competing with AI-enabled purchasing systems to get contact time with buyers.

What do sales reps need to do to stay relevant in this environment?

  • Take a better tech “selfie.” We are in an arms race with buyers to ensure our systems and processes provide an advantage in the marketplace. To do this, all customer interactions must be analyzed and the most up-to-date AI technology must be used to enable value for buyers beyond what they can do on their own. For example, if your customers start using an AI algorithm to determine their most important criteria, sellers need the same analysis of outcomes on bids to enable identification of features that are most valued to ensure they stand out to the algorithm when reviewing future deals.
  • Analyze their profiles. Many interactions happen between providers and buyers. Maximizing the impact of your systems requires capturing these interactions. Constant analysis of recorded phone calls, documented tasks and online interactions is critical to enable the insights needed to stay connected with your buyers. For example, real-time analysis of phone conversations can provide next-best action popups to sales reps to indicate where to take the conversation next and better position themselves to win.
  • Build the relationship. Buyers still value relationships and will always engage with trusted advisors when making important decisions. For sales reps, it’s even more important to find ways to be present and add value — even outside an active purchase opportunity — to ensure a place at the table when a need arises (e.g. proactively checking in to tell a buyer about a new update that will add value for them at no additional cost).

Buyer relationships are evolving, and sales must evolve with them. As human interactions are automated, sellers must maximize buyer interactions to make the most of these limited personal interactions. AI can help you secure the first date, but the ultimate success of the relationship is still on you.