There was a mind provoking article in the WSJ Smart Sales Tools Seek Better Data” by Angus Loten on 18th March 2018. It stated, how some companies, already awash with data, “are looking to fill a yawning gap in corporate intelligence on a key component of their sales strategy: Buyers.” According to Mr. Loten, data on commercial buyers is increasingly critical, as more businesses deploy digital sales tools powered by artificial intelligence algorithms, aiming to leverage insight to close more deals or simply know when to walk away. He added, that based on IT vendors and industry analysts “the smart sales tools are only as good as the data sellers plug in”. Bingo, music for my ears!!

So, let me start with saying that I sincerely believe AI is good for productivity and a game changer in the future of sales. Yet, most of the companies are not there yet. And as far as many SME’s are concerned, some are still running on Excel to track their sales and prospects. So, this made me think. Firstly, is AI benefitting only companies with a massive amount of data? Secondly, why companies do not have accurate data, although CRMs have been around for a long time? Thirdly, it seems that the same companies that sold us CRMs are now proposing us AI platforms as add-ons to their CRMs.

Finally, if the data gathering and filtering needs to be beefed up by AI, then the whole logic of lead generation and silo thinking has been wrong from the very beginning. That logic is about process, not about information per se.Am I the only one feeling that I have been sold yet again a new buzzword and “a layer over layer” of productivity?

Let’s start by fixing the basics? Many salespeople simply do not enter relevant and accurate information to their CRMs. This is the main issue. So, shouldn’t we first simplify the initial data and information gathering process to prepare ourselves for AI age? After all, what is so complicated about entering the “good” data and market information?

Could it be that CRMs are simply too complicated to be used in the field? Or should we fire all the sales professionals who do not provide “loads of good and valid data”? Technically, you need 3 things to understand your customers:

Firstly, a good set of questions to ask from your clients such as: What they buy, why, from whom, how many times per year…

Secondly, a fast interface with user friendly visuals and easy question forms to enter the data. If something is complicated and takes time, sales professionals will not use it. They rather concentrate on sales. This is why excel is still used in many companies, even some multinationals.

Thirdly, we need clear rules for systematic and consistent information gathering.

Is your CRM process delivering these features to you and is your organization adhering to these principles? I guess not. And adding some AI will not change that.

Why not? Simply because, too often the decision about what sales tool to use, is made by people who do not usually use them! Thus, the process has become more important than the result. Think about it. A hockey goalie has different gear than other players on the ice, even though, they play the same game. So, why sales professionals shouldn’t also have their own “gear” to make their life easier and get you the data you want for your AI.


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