Critical Conversations to Ensure a Successful Sales AI Deployment
6 conversations that leaders must have to set organizations up for success in AI
AI has been the hottest topic in sales and marketing research for the past five years, at least. Though the COVID-19 pandemic curbed AI investment in 2020, it’s expected to rebound as businesses continue to level out.
These can make or break your AI implementation.
So how can you make sure the AI deployment at your company, with its unique needs and challenges, is going to work?
It all starts with these four foundational steps:
1. Identify a narrow, straightforward business goal that works for your enterprise.
AI alone is not going to be the answer to all your problems.
Before you commit to integrating AI tools in your operation, you need to define your business goals. This includes established metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that inform said goals.
Experts recommend keeping that goal narrow in scope, at least at first. For instance, the Harvard Business Review recommends starting AI implementation with discrete projects. These tasks should be obvious candidates for automation.
This route is more manageable than overhauling your entire business all at once.
2. Secure a dedicated buy-in from leadership.
C-Suite executives and high-level managers must commit to the vision behind AI adoption.
Their support and leadership are crucial for both execution and setting an example for employees.
Holding the key conversations we outline below can help secure the kind of vigorous AI buy-in you need from leadership.
3. Get the right people in the room to have the hard conversations.
It seems like successful sales AI deployment would be a streamlined affair. Probably only involving sales leaders and the tech team, right?
Hardly! Seamless business-wide integration is the endgame here. Achieving that integration from the get-go starts by engaging all department heads. (We’ll touch on who those right people are a bit later.)
4. Know what conversations need to be had.
It’s crucial to know what conversations those stakeholders need to have in advance of crafting your AI deployment game plan. We’ll go into what those conversations are below (we’ve identified six key topics that are a must).
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Who should be involved?
So, who are those “right people in the room”? Short answer: anyone at the decision-making level overseeing or supporting revenue-generating teams. Also, any tech personnel needed to get you up and running.
The key stakeholders in a successful sales AI deployment include:
- Sales leadership
- Marketing leadership
- Sales enablement teams
- IT teams
- Data scientists
- Business intelligence teams
- Sales operations teams
- Customer success leadership
How to help conversations along
Once all stakeholders are in the room together, a self-generated conversation about best practices for AI deployment isn’t going to emerge from thin air.
Be aware that there will be significant differences between all these stakeholders in terms of work culture, skill sets, and knowledge and experience.
You need to get everyone to speak the same language. This might be more challenging for any stakeholders who find themselves intimidated by tech.
Why does the conversation between data scientists and non–data scientists matter?
AI can seem daunting to the uninitiated. But even us Luddites on the sales teams have to have a generative conversation with the data scientists involved in deployment.
Working on their own, data scientists could build the most elegant AI system in the world, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good if they built it without input from all the impacted teams.
Without that information, the data scientists won’t know what kind of data is relevant and valuable, or what kind of insights the AI should be extracting, or what kind of actions the AI should recommend.
And at the same time, data scientists also need to explain to the less tech-savvy why they need to stay on top of their data collection and cleaning practices (more on that below).
How can teams build the skills necessary to have that conversation?
This is going to involve a little prep work, especially for executives and sales team members without a lot of technological experience.
How much prep work depends on the degree to which your enterprise already uses sales enablement tech, and how familiar they already are with data and analytics. Look for easy-to-read guides to sales AI to share with your teams.
There’s also an abundance of white papers and case studies available online to look at. You might even consider holding a mini-seminar or workshop to get everyone up to speed on the key terms and concepts.
Key conversations that leadership must have
So, we’ve established that some critical conversations need to be had prior to AI implementation. But what kinds of conversations?
For any sales teams in the race to adopt AI, we’ve identified six key conversation prompts that can get you to the winner’s circle:
1. “Is our team ready for AI? How prepared are we?”
Start the conversation off with an honest audit of your current sales processes. What strengths can you identify? And weaknesses? Work together as a group to evaluate any performance issues and brainstorm ways to address them.
It will also pay off to take the time now to define a set of KPIs for AI implementation.
During this conversation, remember that a huge part of assessing your team’s preparedness for implementing AI has to do with your current data management practices.
AI isn’t a magical button that miraculously improves sales outcomes all by itself. It has to have the right data to analyze in order to find the right answers to your problems. If data entry isn’t prioritized in AI implementation, then inconsistencies and white space can halt progress on hitting KPIs.
(By the way, this is one reason why AI-powered CRMs, like the one offered by Accent Technologies, can be so useful for sales teams, especially those struggling with data maintenance. With Accent’s solution, AI automatically captures, cleans, and analyzes the data you need, thus alleviating the burden from sales reps.)
2. “What’s our sales AI implementation game plan?”
Your AI deployment won’t stand a chance without a solid, vetted, stakeholder-approved game plan. The plan needs to consider all aspects of not just implementation, but also company-wide AI adoption, as well as monitoring and adaptation.
Time spent crafting a robust game plan now will pay off in spades down the road.
Also, like any good battle plan, do your best to anticipate roadblocks and obstacles. And be sure to add in a 30-50% “margin of safety” on your implementation timeline in case these things put you behind schedule.
3. “How do we envision AI integration?”
Total and seamless integration is the name of the game in successful sales AI implementation. (As such, integration should also be a key part of the game plan we just talked about.)
AI only works to the extent that its human partners are engaged with it. To harness the full extent of AI’s power, all teams need to buy-in to adoption and usage, and understand AI as an integral part of their practice.
Information can no longer be siloed in different departments, and all stakeholders must have easy access to the same data and tools. Maybe you’ve already noticed how today’s workplace is becoming increasingly horizontal, fluid, and holistic. That’s the kind of workplace AI really thrives in.
4. “How will we measure success?”
A crucial part of your AI deployment strategy is devising an efficient protocol for monitoring and measuring AI’s effectiveness in your sales operation. AI is continually learning and adapting based on the data you feed it and the decisions you make with it.
And similarly, you’ll want to continually tweak and adapt your AI usage as your performance, goals, and so on continue to change and expand. Monitoring your teams’ AI implementation and usage is a key part of that ability to evolve.
5. “How will implementation change our needs?”
One thing you can count on: implementing sales AI is going to significantly alter the needs of your business. For instance, your sales force will be freed up from a lot of busywork and left with more time to nourish their all-important client relationships.
But on the other hand, as we saw above, gathering and maintaining data is now going to be incredibly urgent. In this step of the conversation, talk with leadership about how you’re going to evaluate your changing needs during and after AI implementation.
Also talk about how your business philosophy, work culture, and processes are going to adapt accordingly.
6. “What is our ethics strategy?”
Throughout this discussion, we’ve been focused on all the positive facets of AI. But don’t forget that AI can have a dark side. With the great power that AI tools can wield, so comes great responsibility. “AI will only be as ethical as your organization requires and allows it to be,” as fintech software pro Luis Rodriguez writes in The AI Handbook.
All involved stakeholders need to agree on a set of regulations and protocols to guarantee your usage of AI coheres with the integrity of your business.
It’s never been easier to harness the power of AI for your sales team. And hopefully sailing will be even smoother now that you’re equipped with some foundational information.
One more tip for those who might still be tech-intimidated? Well, that Harvard Business Review article we mentioned above says that the easiest way to ease into sales AI adaptation is simply by upgrading your already-existing sales enablement platforms to ones powered by AI. (We mentioned Accent Technologies above, for instance. Our cloud-based, AI-powered sales platforms are a great example of that.)
Do a little research into solutions such as these. They might just come in handy when you’re having those six crucial sales AI deployment conversations.
Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a true Revenue Enablement Platform. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams.
This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios and provides the data for rich analytics that power better coaching, forecasting, and long-term customer support. Learn more about our solutions or request a live demo to see it in action.