AI In Sales: What Do The Experts Have To Say? (2/4)

14 July, 2023

How to effectively use AI in the sale process, to boost lead volume, close sales, conversation intelligence, effective coaching, and more?

Initium AI has recently hosted a discussion on the role that AI can play in sales, with sales and AI experts who shared their insights and experience:

Raluca Banea , Director of Strategic Accounts & Innovation at MedEquip Depot

Alex Gohl , Senior Director of Client Development at Syndigo

Rada Mihalcea , Professor & AI Lab Director at U. Michigan and Co-founder of Initium.AI

We are excited to share the second part of this conversation.

Highlighted here:

  • Drawbacks of using AI in sales
  • AI for smaller budget companies
  • Will AI replace sales reps?

Raluca : We have discussed the benefits of using AI in the same process. How about the drawbacks of AI?

Alex : Recently, I watched a clip from 60 Minutes where Leslie Stalh talked about chatbots. They asked a chatbot about one of the correspondents on the show, Leslie Stalh herself, and it provided mostly correct information but also some incorrect details in the background. This made me think about the issue of misinformation, which is prevalent, especially in politics. As AI becomes an engine of information, it's important to address incorrect data that may be fed into question and answer systems or content delivery. The AI's confidence in delivering answers can lead to potential problems. Human validation might be necessary to ensure accuracy. For example, if I were to compose a personalized email to multiple people, errors in the input data could result in mistakes like misspelling names, incorrect titles, or company names. Such errors could lead to embarrassment or loss of credibility. So, these drawbacks are worth considering as we explore the potential replacement of human responsibilities and job functions with AI. Although I haven't personally encountered these issues yet, they could arise in the future.

Raluca : That's true, and I think we share the same view. Recently, I started using an AI-powered email composer, and most of the time, it generates outstanding content. However, occasionally, it lacks relevance. It's a matter of fine-tuning and ensuring that it captures the depth of the situation. As the system learns more about your style and preferences, these inconsistencies should diminish over time.

Rada : The challenging part is that the actual incorrect information or inconsistencies are often hidden within a larger document that appears good overall. It makes it harder to catch those isolated errors. Unlike human-generated misinformation, where you can spot it throughout an entire article, these AI-generated errors may be confined to one or two sentences, making them harder to detect. Another point worth considering is the extent to which the use of AI, like Google's auto-complete, can make communications less personal. I don't want to speculate too much, but it's something that may change. If all the emails I receive are written by an AI and I choose to respond using an AI as well...

Raluca : We might quickly lose that personal touch.

Rada : Exactly. They'll be like AI systems conversing with each other. Who knows where this will lead? It's interesting to observe.

Raluca : Definitely. Now, I want to address the issue that smaller budget companies are encountering when it comes to investing in AI. The question is, how can these companies still benefit from these technologies? As larger companies with substantial budgets adopt these tools, they gain more power and agility. So, how can smaller companies remain relevant? Do they necessarily need extensive IT teams dedicated to AI systems, or are there alternative approaches to ensure they don't lag behind?

Rada : This is a great question because it relates to the phenomenon of the rich getting richer in the tech industry, which we observe over time. It's not just specific to sales; it's prevalent everywhere. There is a genuine concern that AI might widen the gap even further. Smaller teams, however, tend to be more agile and adaptable, making it easier for them to experiment and find what works best for them. It's not feasible for every company to have dedicated personnel for AI. However, with the emergence of new companies providing AI solutions, there will be a range of options to choose from based on the specific needs of each business. It's important to consider factors like budget and the type of technology required. Prices can vary, with some solutions sold per seat and others per company. We keep in mind the different needs and budgets of small and medium-sized companies, offering affordable pricing accordingly. It's crucial to remain open-minded, curious, and willing to try new things, especially for small companies that can adopt innovations more quickly than larger organizations.

Alex : Indeed, it also makes me think about businesses that provide pricing information on their websites, allowing potential customers to make informed decisions. Especially for small and medium-sized businesses, accessible AI-powered solutions can have a significant impact. These companies may have self-serve setups supported by AI services, which can elevate the level of customer service provided. For those seeking specific out-of-the-box solutions, this kind of ecosystem, with automated self-serve options and a range of content, can facilitate their needs. It's interesting to consider how businesses might evolve and expand their self-serve capabilities using such approaches.

Raluca : These are excellent points, thank you. Let's move on to the next question. We often hear that AI will replace many jobs. How likely do you think that is, and what would be the consequences for salespeople and the industry as a whole? How can salespeople prepare for a world where they may need to adopt these technologies to stay relevant?

Alex : With any major advancement or revolution, some jobs get displaced, but there's also a demand for new jobs. When I think about the impact of AI today, it brings efficiency and takes away admin tasks, allowing salespeople to focus on selling and adding value to customers. AI can serve up information that helps build relationships and position oneself effectively. It may result in some sales jobs being replaced or fewer salespeople needed due to automation and insights. However, relationships are still crucial, and AI is here to support, not replace. I don't think it will happen anytime soon, especially considering the digital advancements companies need to go through. People shouldn't be overly concerned about being replaced, but rather focus on adapting to new opportunities that arise.

Rada : I agree completely. I don't think AI will replace salespeople because human relationships play such a crucial role. AI is currently lacking qualities like empathy and emotional expression, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. From what we've discussed so far, I see AI as a support tool, helping salespeople rather than replacing them.

Raluca : I feel the same way. It will increase our efficiency, as Alex mentioned earlier. I'm really excited about the current technologies available and what's to come in the future.

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