5 Steps to Build a Strong Sales AI Business Case
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way businesses operate by providing them insight into customer behavior and other key areas. However, in all the excitement around the potential benefits of AI, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this is still a new technology.
Building a Business Case for AI
You may be tempted to jump right in when it comes to building a business case for Artificial Intelligence at your company. We admire your enthusiasm. AI is exciting, and it’s not hard to get others interested in the concept.
The real challenge will come after that initial excitement dims.
At this point, you will face pushback. It’s inevitable.
Because of this, and the fact that most of the objections to AI are the same regardless of company and industry, it’s good to prepare for them ahead of time. Like the Cub Scouts, you’ll want to be prepared.
Here are some of the most common issues companies have when embracing AI:
- Confusion about what AI is
- Uncertainty about how AI can improve business
- Financial concerns about implementing an AI program
- Worries that AI will displace human employees
Beyond that, you’ll also want to think about specific challenges you might face at your business.
Let’s break down some of these issues.
1. Changes in Thinking, Behavior, and Processes
Countless proverbs talk about the inevitability of change, but most of us are still reluctant to embrace it.
This is particularly true when the change in question involves a new way of doing things that will disrupt the status quo. AI perfectly fits this description.
One of the key ways to overcome issues involving thinking, behavior, and process change objections is by showcasing success stories.
No matter what business you’re in, someone out there has implemented AI into his or her company in the same way you want to. Find these success stories and share them with people who still need convincing.
The more details you can provide about how the changes AI creates will have a positive impact on your company, the more likely you are to overcome objections and get people to embrace this new technology.
2. Cultural Anxiety Around AI
In the modern world, there’s a common fear that we’re all going to eventually be replaced by machines. Artificial Intelligence, which “learns” based on experience, terrifies some people who fear it will make their jobs obsolete.
While there may come a day when machines are better at our jobs than we are, that day is not today and probably not in the immediate future.
What AI is great for is helping humans become more effective at their jobs.
Machine learning means these programs can sift through huge amounts of data and find patterns we’d miss.
Because of this, AI is a support tool for your employees, not a replacement.
But the cultural anxiety may move beyond just the fear of being replaced.
The addition of AI to your business means employees will need to learn new skills to take advantage of the insights the machines are providing. You may redesign your information technology department. Job titles may change.
You can overcome these concerns in your business case by highlighting how AI will make your teams better at what they do (without replacing them), and how you’ll ensure everyone has all the tools they need to succeed in this new situation.
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3. ROI Expectations
Finally, the biggest challenge most CIOs face when selling AI to the company at large deals with return on investment.
Executive level decision-makers are always concerned about the bottom line. AI implementation can be pricey and results take time to materialize.
You can allay these concerns in several different ways:
- Find success metrics for the early stages of implementation that move beyond just dollars and sense
- Clearly define what costs will be and provide a timeline for each stage of the AI implementation
- Remind decision makers that not investing in AI now puts them at a disadvantage and may cost them even more in the long run.
AI can easily pay for itself over time. The key here is managing early expectations and getting buy in to commit to spending upfront.
Now that we’ve addressed the problems, let’s talk about what you should include in your business case.
Present Value and Possibilities
The first thing your business case pitch for AI should do is talk about the value and possibilities with this technology. If you can get stakeholders to grasp how transformative AI can be, everything else is easy.
So, what should you highlight here?
AI helps companies make better decisions at all levels. This is because the technology can look at huge amounts of data and find correlations humans would miss.
From determining how to best move a customer through your sales funnel to forecasting whether it’s the right time to expand, AI takes the guesswork out of the decision making process.
AI is the cornerstone of your tech and information operations.
Companies that implement AI are often transformed in the process, emerging from the experience smarter, more agile, and better equipped to face the challenges of business in the 21st century.
Implementing an AI program is a lot of work and can be a challenging undertaking, but the results are worth it. Your company will emerge in a better position.
Plus, once you have AI in place, you can continue to future-proof your company as new tech emerges.
Superior Customer Experiences
Customers are the cornerstone of any successful business. If you don’t have customers, it’s hard to stay in the game.
AI can help you provide an all-around better experience for your customers. Whether it’s by qualifying new leads and moving them into your sales pipeline, or figuring out ways to cross-sell to your existing clients, AI understands your audience.
Armed with this knowledge, it’s both easier to put the customer front and center and not waste their time offering them the wrong item or pitch.
4. Draw a Roadmap to Success
Earlier, we discussed how some stakeholders will be hesitant to embrace AI because they’re concerned about the return on investment. Your business case should do everything possible to alleviate this fear.
Be honest. Early on, AI implementation will cost money and manpower. There’s no push-button solution that builds an AI infrastructure and immediately starts generating revenue and results. Adding AI to your business will take time and energy.
The timeframe can vary. Because of this, it’s important to plan ahead.
One key way to reduce concerns is by creating a project roadmap. Define the timeline for implementation in stages. Break down when results will be achievable. Set key performance indicators that include more than just revenue in your presentation.
Then tie these things back to the first point – the potential of AI. Explain how once the system is in place and optimized, the financial benefit becomes more apparent.
Look beyond the traditional measures for your metrics early on. Here are two we recommend:
These are metrics where AI implementation will have a direct affect on your business. Examples include things like time saved by automating tasks, filling in gaps in your data pool, and completing data sets for further analysis.
Here, you’ll want to highlight how the data gained through the use of AI will allow you to become better at forecasting. How will AI impact your decision-making? How will it help you make better investments? How will it aid you in strategizing for the road ahead?
The key here is to think beyond purely monetary value.
5. Paint a Picture of the Future
To close, it’s important that you reiterate the benefit of all this labor.
This is where you’ll want to spend time creating a visual image of how your company will look after taking the time to implement AI.
This is not the same as presenting value and possibilities as we discussed earlier.
Here, you’ll want to take that value and the possibilities and reframe them to fit your business.
This doesn’t mean simply creating a rosy, pie in the sky portrait of success. It’s important to be realistic here. You’ll want to highlight the benefits, but don’t short sell the challenges.
Here are a few of the things that you should outline at this stage:
Now is the time to craft real world examples of how your company will use AI in their day-to-day operations. The more detail you can add here, the better.
We want stakeholders to understand why the process is worth it. Show them real examples of how AI will impact your business.
This is not a sunshine and rainbows pitch. Implementing AI, like any paradigm shift, will come with some challenges and roadblocks along the way.
Recognize that and share what those challenges are before you begin the implementation process. This way, everyone is aware of potential problems ahead of time.
Take things a step further and highlight how you’ll overcome these roadblocks should they arise.
Show Leadership How They Can Get Involved
The last step involves making sure your company leadership is clear on what you’ll need from them.
Highlight areas where upper management can get involved. Demonstrate how the adoption of AI will affect their work as well.
Making sure everyone is onboard, involved, and on the same page is a key component to a successful project.
In a perfect world, AI would sell itself (and in a few years, it might…).
However, some businesses are more change-resistant than others. If you find yourself fighting an uphill battle when it comes to getting AI buy-in at your company, it’s time to create a business case to support your project.
As mentioned in the opening of this article, there’s no one size fits all solution when it comes to creating this document. But these steps and guidelines will help you create a case study that will highlight the benefits of AI for your company.
Once most executives understand what AI actually is and see how it can impact business, the sale becomes much easier. Use the business case study to educate and inform them and we’re sure they’ll see the benefits of this technology.
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